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Know the Difference

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Act 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

start.


CHAPTER ONE: THE NORM/THE FAMILY BUSINESS


FATHER, do you have ten minutes to talk with me or are you busy right now?”

The papers he carried in his arms weighed heavy as Izuku bounced on the balls of his feet. Even though there were only two or three sheets, the weight was in his own head because of the words and phrases that he had written on them. There were twenty five reasons he had carefully written in his best penmanship, with his best pen, each considered just as carefully as he would consider anything else.

Father’s gaze was as intimidating as it had always been his entire life, despite the mess of tubes that connected him to life support for the past five years.

Eventually, he sighed wearily and his lips twitched up. “Is this about taking a more active role in the family business?”

Izuku lifted his chin and squared his shoulders. This was it, his opening. If he had been busy, father would have dismissed him instantly or told him to talk with mother.

Calmly, he laid the papers on top of the desk, on top of the other papers that he was surely browsing through for the family business, and then he took a step back. He had rehearsed his speech with Tomura-nii, several times in fact, until Tomura-nii had shouted at him to “stop bugging me already with your whiny insecurity and just say it to him!”

So.

It must be good enough by now.

“Yes, father, it is about taking a more active role. Please listen to me. I thought full every reason like you asked me to, and I truly believe that I would be an asset to the family business.”

Izuku bowed at forty-five degrees and then pulled his back straight again, waiting for permission to speak again. The last two times had ended badly because Izuku had mumbled or spoken too quickly; the ones before that he hadn’t even considered why he wanted to help with the family business. Really, it was no wonder father told him no instantly.

This time though, Izuku was sure, would have a different outcome.

He even had mother’s advice on the reasons.

Father sank back into the chair and gestured with his hand, a little circle—the universal sign to continue on with the explanation. “You have five minutes to present your case. After that, you are welcome to join me for lunch, but I will not listen to insistent pleading if there is no depth to it.”

“Right,” Izuku said quickly. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. That was less time than he would have hoped for, but that was all right. “Reason one why you should consider allowing me to participate more fully in the family business is that I’m plain. Most heroes would not suspect me of all people to be involved with the family business.”

“There are plenty of people who are plain in our family, Izuku. Your mother, for example. Kurogiri.”

“Mother is retired and Kurogiri is already known by the heroes,” Izuku replied swiftly. “I’m not. It would be easy for me to stay under the radar and get more stuff done quietly.”

“You might be unknown now, but that is because your mother and I have kept you out of our affairs. As soon as you step into that world, pro heroes will know you are my son.”

Izuku frowned but didn’t allow that to perturb him. “I’m also smart and clever. I’d be good at convincing people to listen to our side, to join our mission, without using extortion.”

“Why would we need to charm them to listen to us when they respect the power we hold over them?”

“Because we want them to not fear us?” Izuku suggested. He was getting off-track, his points carried away into explanations he hadn’t planned, he was losing time to convince his father. “I don’t know about you father, but I’d rather they not think our family is cruel unnecessarily. That would just drive them to the side of the heroes or other villains such as Overhaul.”

His father sighed, stood, and walked around the desk. “This is why I don’t want you involved with the family business, Izuku. You’re too compassionate to consider that our less savory business partners would take advantage of that. Your brother understands that, he is far more ruthless than you are, which is why he is the heir.”

Izuku frowned, because he hadn’t even gotten five minutes and his father had already dismissed his efforts, even though he hadn’t finished explaining to him. It didn’t look like he was going to change his mind anytime soon though.

“Will you at least look at the list I wrote down for you?” he asked.

“Of course I shall look at it, but I make no promises to change my stance on your involvement anytime soon. You’re too young to understand the responsibility of the family business.”  

Izuku faked a smile and nodded, pretending that he was happy that father was at least considering it. But it was hard to feel happy when he didn’t really have a chance to explain.

“Come now, don’t be so disappointed,” father said, reaching over to put his hand on his shoulder. Izuku tilted his head back and studied the side of his face. “I know you wish to help us, but it’s not needed right now, especially since you’re quirkless.”

“You could always give me a quirk?” Izuku suggested, unable to leave the hopeful tone out of his voice. Father chuckled.

“No, no, not now, Izuku. Later.”

It was always later. Even as a child, when Izuku had talked to him about which quirks were interesting and could he have it, father, could he have that quirk, please father? father had always said to ask him again when he was older.

Izuku was fourteen years old now, almost fifteen. And still…

“How about lunch?” father asked, with a smile—or, at least, Izuku assumed it was a smile. It was difficult to tell when his entire face was covered with that breathing mask.

“Yeah, okay.” Izuku straightened his shoulders and faked a smile. He didn’t want to be scolded for being selfish. “Lunch sounds good.”


Izuku opened the door without knocking and flopped down onto Tomura-nii’s bed, throwing his hand over his eyes.

“Hey, get out! I never said you could come in.” His brother yelled, kicking at his shoulders with his feet. He was holding a book up between his covered hands, wearing the gloves he had bought him for his birthday to keep stuff from dissolving when he was using all five of his fingers. Izuku sighed dramatically and threw his arm across his eyes.

“He said no. Again.”

“Of course he would say no. You’re quirkless.” Tomura-nii gave up trying to push him off his bed though, pulling his feet up and underneath him. He looked like he had eaten a sour lemon. “Are you going to get out of my room now?”

“I wouldn’t be quirkless if father just gave me a quirk.”

“Clearly, he doesn’t see a use for you having one.”

“I wish I had one. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so useless.”

Tomura-nii’s exasperation melted away and his eyebrows furrowed together. He set the book onto his end table. “Is Bakugou being cruel to you again? You only call yourself that word when he acts up.”

“You know Kacchan isn’t mean to me. He’s the only friend I’ve got.”

“He calls you Deku.”

“And I call him Kacchan.”

Tomura-nii groaned. “You know what? I’m not even going to bother arguing with you about this. You’re being too defensive about your so-called best friend. Have you considered dad just wants to keep you on the sidelines to protect you?”

“He doesn’t keep you on the sidelines and you have a quirk,” Izuku muttered under his breath.

“You have his name. I don’t.” He stated simply. Izuku didn’t have a response to that—it was always so hard to talk to Tomura when the subject of their last names and his adoption into the family was brought up, so he always stayed quiet.

“What are you reading?” Izuku asked instead, propping his chin into his fist. He was still lying across the bed, but now he was laid on his side instead of his back.

“Porn.”

What?” Tomura-nii smirked and Izuku jumped off the bed, landing funnily on his tailbone. He rubbed the sore area gingerly, grimacing when it hurt.

“Just kidding. I’m reading about how heroes started their oppression. The government really spreads this propaganda… they don’t even mention how a hero stole from us first in their official textbooks. I mean, what the fuck? They’re missing the point of this centuries old conflict.”

That rant was nothing new to Izuku by this point. However, before he had a chance to respond to it with his own opinion, someone knocked on the door and opened it slowly.

“Tomura, dinner will be ready in half an hour, so come down when it’s— oh, Izuku? What are you doing in here?”

Mom tilted her head to the side and stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. Her eyes slid away from Tomura to him and her identical green softened as they always did when she looked at him. It was always hard to imagine that his mother was the infamous villain Iron Will, who was rumored to be almost cruel and once reigned with father as his right-hand. Now, she was an ordinary housewife.

Though, to Izuku, she was everything but ordinary.

“I was talking to Tomura-nii.”

“I see…” She smiled at him. “Would you like to join me in making dinner? It’s katsudon night.”

“Oh, sure!” Izuku bounced onto his feet, because the only thing he loved more than katsudon was cooking it with mom as was their tradition, and he tossed a smile over his shoulder at his brother. “Thanks for talking to me, nii-san.”

Tomura-nii’s lips twitched. To most people, it would look more like a neutral stare than a threatening scowl, but it was as good a smile as he was going to get. “Whatever. Knock next time before you come in though.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Oh, Tomura!” His mom’s expression lit up, as if she was remembering something she had just forgotten. “When you’re finished with your history assignment, would you mind coming downstairs to help us set the table?”

Izuku watched as Tomura-nii’s small, almost not there, smile slip off his face entirely. He always liked talking to father the most, treating mom a bit more coolly for some reason. Izuku rolled his eyes and walked out the door, because sometimes Tomura was petty over the stupidest things.

He never wanted to help with anything—just wanted to stay holed up in his room all day if he could.

“Yeah. Sure. I’ll help.”

“Thank you dear. We’ll leave you alone.”

Izuku waited for mom to shut the door with a soft click, somewhat patiently even though he had to stop himself from tapping his foot against the ground. She smiled down at him and ruffled his hair as she passed him.

“So, what were you talking to your brother about?”

“Nothing much,” Izuku said with a shrug. “I was mostly complaining because father wouldn’t let me help with the family business.”

“You know he has his reasons, right? He wants to protect you… our line of business isn’t particularly known for its safety.”

“I know,” Izuku sighed. “I just wish he would let me help sometimes. I’m not a child anymore. I feel guilty because I’m basically useless and I can’t do anything, since I’m quirkless…”

“You’re fourteen, Izuku.” His mom’s voice was warm with humor, and Izuku flushed. “You have time to grow into your role as you become older, don’t worry.”

“I’m not a dead weight, am I?”

“Never. You’re our most precious son.”

“I thought that was Tomura-nii?”

“He is special to us as well,” mom agreed with a nod and a distant look in her eyes.

“Hmm.” Izuku studied her for a long moment, but he said nothing. Tomura-nii was… Tomura-nii. He was special all right.

Mom smiled down at him, mysteriously, but she didn’t say anything. Instead, she changed the subject to— “Would you like pork or chicken?”

“Pork, obviously.”


 

Kacchan was waiting for Izuku to arrive at the corner of their street, where they met daily to make the trek to and from school together. His demeanor was calm as he slouched against the wall, earbuds in his ears and phone in his hand as he scrolled through what Izuku assumed was a playlist.

He looked up when Izuku approached and pulled the earbuds out. “You’re late, Deku. Like always.”

“Sorry,” Izuku replied, like always. Kacchan rolled his eyes and knocked his shoulder against his, a bit too hard to be considered friendly.

“Let’s get a move on. I can’t afford to be late and have it on my record. It’ll fuck up my chances to get into UA if something shows up and I’m not going to let your tardiness screw my future over.”

Izuku rolled his eyes, because they had twenty minutes before school started and it only took ten minutes to walk there, but he agreed. “Did you read about how All Might saved all those people the other day from that collapsing building?”

Kacchan nodded, setting a brisk pace in the direction of their school. He pulled the earbuds out of his phone, storing them in his backpack, and shoving the phone into the pockets of his sagging pants.

“Yeah. After he defeated the villain who caused that structural damage during their fight, he still had enough time to go inside and save everyone in there. While it was collapsing. It was so cool.”

“It’s impressive how he managed to save everyone in time,” Izuku said, honestly, because it was. He’d never say it to anyone in his family, to anyone who wasn’t Kacchan, but he admired the way All Might smiled when he saved those people.

“I’ll be like him someday, the number one hero.” There was no doubt in Kacchan’s voice about it, and if there was anything about his best friend, it was that he was driven and talented. If anyone could overthrow All Might from his status as the Symbol of Peace, the number one hero, then it would be Kacchan.

It was almost a shame that they were on completely opposite sides.

While Kacchan, who was born from a perfectly ordinary family with an unusually powerful quirk, would surge through the hero ranks and eventually become the number one hero, Izuku was the son of the most powerful villain in the underworld, Hisashi Midoriya, who was better known as All for One. It was in his blood and the way he was raised, to become a villain.

But then… it wasn’t like Kacchan would accept him, the quirkless Deku, becoming a hero and challenging his story. Izuku was just a side character who he had deemed as not dumb.

“You will,” Izuku agreed. “You’ll be better than him one day, Kacchan.”

Kacchan looked at him out of the corner of his eyes and his lips quirked up. It wasn’t a smile, but it wasn’t a smirk either. “If you weren’t quirkless, maybe I’d let you be my sidekick.”

“If I wasn’t quirkless…” Izuku echoed. If only he wasn’t quirkless. Maybe then his parents would let him help with the family business. He knew he had valuable resources to offer them, wanted to help them; he was smart and he was clever. But he was quirkless, because father wouldn’t give him a quirk.

“Did you know that All Might has been spotted apprehending villains in our prefecture?” Kacchan asked, changing the subject. Izuku shook his head.

“No, I didn’t,” he lied. He’d stayed up to three in the morning reading the articles online and watching the video playback of All Might saving the civilians from one of father’s more ‘unsavory’ business partners. Kacchan smirked, clearly seeing right through him. “I thought he was in Tokyo a couple days ago?”

“Apparently not. The Hero Feed said he just showed up here yesterday afternoon.” He mimicked one of All Might’s punches, throwing in several small explosions for good measure. “He must have business with UA or something.”

“Or something,” Izuku agreed. It wasn’t like All Might suspected father was alive after that he hurt him so badly five years ago. Any other man would be dead after a blow like that. “Say, did you understand the math worksheet that sensei gave to us? I don’t remember learning how to complete them.”

Kacchan rolled his eyes. “Sensei gave it to us early because he had to go to a conference, Deku. The substitute teacher was going to explain how to do it today.”

“Oh.”

Kacchan laughed. It was one of his typical mean, mocking laughs. Izuku might have felt hurt by it, but he was used to it by now. “Seriously Deku, did you zone out again in class? You’re not going to get into any high school at this rate.”

Izuku tightened his grip on the backpack. “My grades are as high as yours, Kacchan. I just thought I might have missed it somehow.”

“You’re right, it’s not your grades that’s the problem, it’s your quirklessness. I doubt any high school would take on a quirkless.”

Izuku frowned. “That’s mean, Kacchan. Quirks aren’t everything.”

Kacchan shrugged. “They are now. Maybe you’ll get into one of those quirkless schools, where you’ll learn to be a good housewife?”

He shuddered at the thought of being forced into a marriage just to graduate from high school. Most quirkless people ended up in those by default, but Izuku had no intention to go there, quirkless or not. The only person who might even beat him when it came to grades was Kacchan, and even then, they were pretty much equal in those as well.

He was smart. It was all he had running for him, since father wouldn’t give him a quirk.

“No way would I apply to any of those schools.”

Kacchan rolled his eyes. “No need to get so huffy about it. You’ll probably get into a regular school.”

“Oh, look. We’re here.” Izuku said, instead of responding. Kacchan widened the gap between them and scowled, and Izuku sighed. Even though Kacchan tolerated his presence more than anyone else’s in the school, he still had his reputation to uphold.

Which meant not looking like he was enjoying being around the quirkless childhood friend too much.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO: PRECONCEPTION/REALITY


 

HELLO, Hedero Viran. I don’t need to introduce myself to you, do I?”

No, no, sir. I recognize you loud and clear. I’m just surprised you’d call a small-time criminal like me.”

“My call isn’t simply for pleasure—I have a job for you that might catch your interest.”

Uh…? I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Let’s put it this way, Viran. I need you to rob a store in the Musutafu area tomorrow around five in the afternoon.  The underpass is a safe escape route for you to use. You will find backup as well as a means to lose any hero that chases you to bring you into police custody. I trust you understand what I mean now?”

… I—yes, sir. And you’ll provide a means for me to escape from any hero? Even All Might if he happens to be in our area?”  

“Certainly. Is this agreeable?”

Very much so. Thank you!”

“Good. Don’t disappoint me.”

The line clicked shut.


 

“Just UA?” Izuku asked, looking over Kacchan’s shoulder and reading the worksheet he had filled out during class. “You’re really confident you’ll get into the Hero Course, aren’t you? You’re not even applying to the General Education course as a backup…”

“Of course I’ll get in,” said Kacchan with a scoff. He smirked. “I’ve trained my quirk to be perfectly suited for heroics. There’s no way they’d turn me away for some half-assed extra who doesn’t know how to use his own quirk.”

Izuku sighed and leaned away from him. There was more to heroics than a flashy quirk, like the strength of heart and a desire to save, not just to win. Even he knew that, and he was raised to become a villain. But it wasn’t like Kacchan would listen to him—he never really listened to him much anyway. “I’d wish you luck, but you probably don’t need it.”

“Damn right I don’t.” He pointed at himself and lit a small explosion in his fist for added emphasis. His control was incredibly precise though, Izuku would give him that. He had the drive and the talent, but Kacchan really did work hard to hone that talent into a sharpened blade. It was doubtless he would go far in whatever he decides to do. “What about you, Deku? Have you written anything down yet?”

“I don’t even know where to apply to for school, let alone the kind of career I’d be eligible for.” Izuku threw his arms in the air to emphasize his frustration. “There’s nothing out there for me.”

Kacchan scoffed. “Of course there’s something out there for you. Someone has to take the boring jobs after all, and that someone might as well be you. You don’t want to be a housewife, do you?”

“Never,” he muttered under his breath. “I guess I’ll talk to my parents and see if they have any ideas. There’s got to be some school out there which will accept me.”

Kacchan hummed and off-handedly said, “You might get lucky and get a quirk in your next life.”

“And what should I do to get that? Take a swan dive off the roof?”

For a moment, there was a beat of silence—and then Kacchan smacked the back of his head with one of his hard textbooks. Izuku yelped, mostly from surprise, and rubbed the throbbing area.

“What the fuck, Deku?! Are you an idiot? Why would you think about doing it?”

“It was sarcastic, Kacchan! You know, sarcasm.”

“If you actually followed through with it, it’d mess up my record and my chance to be a hero! If anyone heard—”

Really?” Izuku asked. “You’re more worried about your own image?”

Kacchan stopped yelling at him for a moment and stared at him. Izuku’s stomach dropped. “Well, yeah. It’s my future. It’s not like I’ll talk to you after I get into U.A. since you’re quirkless.”

Izuku scowled and stood up, ignoring the way his hands trembled. He pulled his backpack onto his shoulders.

“Deku? What are you doing—oi, I didn’t say you could leave! Get back here!”

“That was mean, Kacchan. You need to learn to watch what you say.” He snapped over his shoulder when he heard Kacchan stomp toward him with all his fire and fury and tactlessness.  

He didn’t want to have to defend himself from his teasing comments when the tears stinging at the corner of his eyes fell.

Luckily, Kacchan didn’t follow him or try to hold him back as Izuku walked off the school grounds and turned left instead of right to take the long way back home. Which was something. Normally, Kacchan didn’t give a damn about what he wanted or wished and just did whatever he felt like doing.

That’s unfair, he reminded himself. Kacchan was his best friend. His remarks might have been callous, but he had been trying to make him feel better in his own way. Even if it was really, really mean of him.

Still, it was stupid getting upset over such thoughtless comments. Father would tell him that only weak individuals allowed those kinds of things to get to him. Mother would tell him to learn to live with what he was. Tomura-nii would laugh at him.

If people like Kacchan were lauded and praised as potential heroes, if there were heroes like Kacchan, then they weren’t very heroic at all. Villainy got a bad reputation, but… if the alternative was heroism, which was selfish and conceited, then Izuku didn’t really understand why villainy was viewed to be so terrible by society.

Heroes were…. Heroics was corrupt.

Pathetic.

Tears dripped off his nose and splashed against the pavement. Izuku brushed them away with his sleeve.

Like always.

Why am I such a crybaby?


 

After about five minutes of self-pity, Izuku sniffled one last time and dried the remains of his tears. He pulled out his phone and began to scroll through the school database. There were a lot of jobs offered in the workforce, and even though only quirked people got those, it was usually because most quirkless didn’t even bother applying for those jobs.

It wasn’t like they were prohibited from being in the workforce either… just highly discouraged. But then, most quirkless didn’t even graduate from high school—unless they went to one of the special schools. And Izuku refused to go to those schools to learn how to be a good little housewife or whatever the equivalent was.

His grades were far above average. If he wasn’t quirkless, he’d have his pick of whatever school he wanted to go to. He might even be able to get into UA’s general education department, despite how competitive it was. But acceptance into that was always more luck than anything else.

He took a deep breath and let it go.

Father wouldn’t let him help with the Family Business, but he might be able to sway the admission committees to the school he applies for to consider his application. Izuku wasn’t dumb either.

There was just… so much he could do, if only father would let him. He wanted to help the Family Business and he wanted to show society the true face of the heroes they worshipped. It just was not allowed, because Tomura-nii was the heir and he was meant to stay on the sidelines for… something.

So frustrating.

A tall, blond man abruptly stopped in front of Izuku—except he looked more like a walking skeleton than a man, facial features hollowed and body gaunt—and he ran smack into him, knocking him over. Izuku flailed and tried to reach over to catch him, but it was too late.

He was plagued with a coughing fit so bad that it sounded like he was coughing up half a lung. Along with half of the blood in his body.

“Oh my god, I’m so sorry!” Izuku bowed repeatedly, almost in tears. “I wasn’t paying attention—are you okay?”

“No, no, it’s fine! I’m fine.”

“But you were coughing blood!”

“That’s normal,” the man said, pulling himself back onto his feet on his own, even though he had offered out his hand for him to hold on to. Izuku shuffled on his feet, but he met his gaze and didn’t look away—just like how father taught him.

Those eyes were so strange. The sclera of his eyes were black, but he wasn’t sure if it was because they had sunken in from illness or because of the way the shadows lit his face.

“I’m fine,” he repeated, a bit more softly, with a smile. “Don’t worry, this is normal.”

That’s not fine, Izuku thought, but didn’t say. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Izuku shuffled on his feet. “At least let me carry your groceries to the train station.”

“It’s all right, they’re not heavy at all—” The man protested, and Izuku wasn’t sure how to respond to that, because he looked like a strong enough gust of wind could knock him over.

“Please, I’m walking toward there as well, it’s the least I could do—”

The man looked at him for a long time, and then he sighed loudly. His shoulders slumped. “You’re quite stubborn, aren’t you?” Izuku smiled. “That’s not a compliment either, young man. Several people would take advantage of that.”

“Please?” he repeated.

The man shook his head. “All right, you can carry those bags. Thank you.”

“It’s the least I could do,” he replied. Because his mom would ground him for a month if she realized he knocked a man over and caused him to cough up so much blood. “I’m really sorry I knocked you over, by the way. Again. I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings at all.”

“All is forgiven. I shouldn’t have stopped in the middle of the road anyway.”

For such a feeble looking man, his strides were long and swift as his imposing figure cut through the crowds. Izuku had to take two strides to cover one of his. “Still…” he muttered under his breath. “My name is Midoriya, by the way.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Midoriya. Mine is Yagi.”

For a while, they both just walked through the crowds, making small talk with each other after Izuku stopped apologizing every few sentences for knocking the man over. Inexplicably, he found himself relaxing in his company; despite how foreboding the man seemed, there was a charisma around him that made him feel comfortable.

In the corner of his eye, Izuku noticed a store that was practically bursting at the seams from the amount of hero merch spilling out of it. He must have stared at it for too long, because Yagi-san asked, “Are you interested in heroes?”

“Who isn’t?”

Everyone was interested in heroes, for one reason or another. Some people, like Kacchan, admired heroes like All Might and aspired to become like them. Other people, like his parents, wanted to reveal the true colors of heroes and see the destruction of their society. Most people passively admired or hated heroes.

Whatever the reason was, everyone was interested in heroes. Izuku would be lying if he denied he did too.

“Do you want to become a hero, too?” Yagi-san asked.

Izuku barked a bitter laugh. “It’s impossible for me.”

“How come? Wanting to help others when they need it is the first step to become a hero.”

His knuckles were starting to turn white from how tight he held the grocery bags, so he loosened his grip and sighed. “Yeah, right. I’m quirkless. I’ll never be one. Besides, my family doesn’t approve of them…”

“That’s a shame.”

Yagi-san seemed genuinely regretful, and for a moment, Izuku wondered what his occupation was—he seemed quite fond of heroes, but then, almost everyone was fond of heroes. Chewing into his bottom lip, he shrugged.

Everyone in his family were villains. It wasn’t that much of a shame.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’d really enjoy all the media attention on myself anyway.”

“That’s certainly understandable, but there are underground heroes like Eraserhead who avoid the media spotlight.”

“Of course there are, but so much of heroics is now dependent on publicity and the money gained from that publicity. It’s awfully shallow.”

“Perhaps, but even heroes have to make enough income to support their families.”

“They shouldn’t have families in the first place though. Imagine if they died and left everyone they loved behind.”

“That’s a risk any person has to take as soon as they walk out the front door of their house.”

“Yes, but they don’t go walking through the jaws of death every other day like it heroics. Heroes can die any time at the hands of a villain. Not only that, but several of them are arrogant, which causes them to make mistakes. There’s so much property damage done at the hands of heroes.”

“Of course there is damage, but at least half of that damage is done by villains attacking them. If there were no villains in the first place, then heroes wouldn’t be necessary. However, for as long there is a villain who wants to hurt innocent life, then there must be a hero who stops that villain.”

The longer they walked, the more Izuku got into the debate, his free hand flailing here and there when he couldn’t talk quick enough with his lips. The man was smiling.

At some point, Izuku found himself stopping in front of a large screen playing one of All Might’s many fights, and he watched it. Yagi-san went quiet.

“Sometimes, I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to be a hero like him...” he said, half to himself, as All Might’s smile burned into his retina. Because as much as he truly adored his family, as much as he wanted to be like them and support the Family Business in any way father would allow him, there was something about the way All Might carried himself…


 

Deep in the bowls of the city, evil lurked, waiting to lure it’s next victim into its trap.

The thing was, Izuku wasn’t going to become a victim.


 

At the train station, Izuku’s phone rung with a message from his father to pick up a dozen eggs from the grocery store, so he waved at Yagi-san and split up.

Izuku walked into the dark tunnel and took a deep breath.  

Well, he’d just have to work harder to prove them wrong and to get into a decent school. Eventually, father would see the sense in allowing him a more active role—

A groan.

He looked over his shoulder.

A villain!

Before he could react, globs of sludge enclosed his limbs and folded around his mouth, stopping him from screaming for help. He couldn’t breathe. Sludge forced its way through his nose and mouth and down his throat, suffocating him. It burned.

I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe! He was losing all the strength in his body to fight back, his limbs failing him as he lost oxygen. Someone, anyone, help me! I’m going to die!

Tears stung his eyes.

He did not want to die.

“Do not worry, for I am here!”

What?

That was… All Might’s voice. Izuku had heard it frequently enough to recognize it between Kacchan showing him videos during school hours and late at night when his family was asleep. But… All Might couldn’t be here, surely? Was it just a figment of his imagination?

But it wasn’t.

He heard All Might scream SMASH!!! and he felt the pressure from his fists as he knocked the Sludge Villain away. Izuku gasped when he could breathe, fell onto his hands and knees. Before he could process it, he was vomiting the sludge out of his lungs, choking on the tar-like substance. His nose stung. His throat hurt. Even though he kept blinking tears out of his eyes, they kept trailing down his cheeks.

A large hand fell onto his back and stayed there, holding him steady as he hurled up what had been forced into his stomach. He sobbed. His hands trembled. It felt like the sludge was holding him in its tentacles, forcing itself down his throat. He couldn’t stop gagging. 

“Easy there,” the hero said, much quieter than he expected for him to be. “You’ll be all right.”

“S-sorry,” he choked out, in-between. His muscles were coiled and ready for a fight, but All Might’s hands were steady. Izuku tried not to think about how father would react once he realized what happened today.

“It’s all right, my boy. Try to breathe with me, all right? One, two three, four…”

Eventually, he managed to force his breathing to match All Might’s rhythm and his hands slowly stopped trembling. The final dregs of the panic attack clung to him, holding him down. He sat up.

“Do you want to get out of the tunnel? You might feel better once you’re in the sunlight.”

Izuku nodded.

“Do you need help?”

He shook his head and got to his own two feet on his own strength. As soon as he took one step forward though, his knees crumpled and he would have collapsed if All Might hadn’t caught him.

“Sorry,” he said, again, as All Might lifted him into his arms and carried him out of the tunnel. He tried to convince his muscles to relax and tried to tell his mind that All Might would not recognize him as the child of his mortal enemy.

“It’s not your fault. What happened to you was very frightening, so the way you’re reacting right now is very reasonable.” He sat him down on the ground, in the grass, about fifty feet away from the entrance to the tunnel.

All Might was… kinder than he expected. 

“Thank you,” he said, pulling his knees to his chest and hugging them. His heart was still racing in his chest, pounding so hard he thought that it might burst. He looked up and met All Might’s gaze. At the smile he got, he managed to twitch his lips up. “For saving me. I got… really lucky.”

Then he paused.

Wait… those eyes… I know those eyes. “Yagi-san?” he asked, hesitantly, and looked down at the bags the man was carrying on his arm—the same bags Yagi-san had been carrying before Izuku knocked into him, and the very same bags Izuku himself had carried.

All Might’s eyes widened.

“W-wha—no, that’s not— my name isn’t—I don’t even know who this Yagi is.”

He’s a terrible liar, Izuku realized. He watched All Might steadily.

A few heartbeats passed where Izuku didn’t look away from All Might and All Might tried to look everywhere except at him, but then the hero sighed. Smoke wafted off his body and then—

He narrowed, the muscles disappearing from his frame like water sliding over a body. Izuku tried not to show his shock when Kacchan’s childhood idol turned into the thin, skeletal man that he had walked into and had half-bullied into carrying his groceries. It likely wasn’t entirely successful, since All Might—Yagi-san?—smiled at him with no teeth.

So… strange.

“Uh,” Izuku said, very intelligently. “You shrunk. How? Wait, what? How did you go from—from—” Izuku vaguely gestured with his hands, spreading his arms wide, and then he brought them close together. “—to that? Um… wait, that came out ruder than I meant—I’m sorry!””

After he secured the jars against his belt, All Might sat down in front of him with a heavy thud and lifted his shirt. Underneath, there was a wound of matted scar tissue.

Izuku cringed.

“This is a wound I got about five years ago when I fought a villain. The result was the total destruction of my stomach along with part of my respiratory system. Currently, I can’t work actively as a hero for more than three hours a day.”

Half remembered conversations came back to Izuku from when father had been gravely injured—five years ago. Mom hadn’t seemed to be very worried about him despite how those injuries would have been fatal to any other human being, but Tomura-nii had been beside himself with worry, throwing tantrums left and right.

After that, he had gotten quiet.

“Oh,” he said, softly.

“What I told you was never told to the public, therefore, I ask you to please hold this information to yourself. The symbol of peace who saves people with a smile must cannot bow to the forces of evil. When I laugh, it’s to trick the fear inside of me.”

All Might stared at him with those glowing, sunken eyes, but even like this, Izuku felt very, very small at the aura of hidden strength radiating out of his beaten, weak form. He couldn’t look away.

he’s… he’s… “What’s it like, being a hero?” he whispered.

“Difficult sometimes,” said All Might. “It’s hard and often lonely, but knowing that people rest easily at night because I am here makes it worth it.”

Izuku didn’t know how to respond to that, but it wasn’t necessary as a crowd rounded the corner and walked toward them. All Might—Yagi-san—stood up and held out his hand.

“How are you feeling now?”

“A little better. I think it might have been the adrenaline.” he admitted. His hands weren’t trembling anymore. “Thank you for saving me though. I…” I didn’t want to die. “That was… it was terrifying.”

Someone bumped into All Might, causing him to stumble and move out of the way of the foot traffic. Izuku frowned.

“I need to take this villain to the police station, but I can call someone to help you home if you want.”

Izuku shook his head politely. Father’s number one rule was to avoid attracting the attention of the police as much as possible. Rule number two was to not forget rule number one. “No, thank you. I’ll be fine.”

All Might frowned a little. “At least call a friend to walk home with you? It’s not safe to walk around without a friend, in general.”

“I usually walk home with my best friend, Kacchan, but we had an argument and I… kind of went off on my own.”

All Might nodded. “I see… I’m sorry to hear about that. Will you try to make up with him?”

Izuku didn’t like the idea of looking back in front of the number one pro-hero, so he nodded slowly. “Probably.”

He stood up on his own power and took a step. His knees didn’t buckle so he took that as a good sign. “Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” He insisted, because All Might looked… worried. Which was a bit strange, because he didn’t really think heroes really worried about the people they rescued after the immediate danger was over.

But this was All Might. Clearly, he was one of the few pro-heroes that cared. Maybe that was why father hated him as much as he did.

It took a couple more minutes after that, but Izuku eventually managed to convince the hero that he was going to be fine if he walked home alone. It wasn’t even that far from here, barely five minutes away.

“Midoriya,” All Might said suddenly, after they turned around and traced their steps, and Izuku looked up at him. “You have a bright mind. You’ll get into a good school.”

Izuku blinked.

How… perceptive. I don’t even remember saying I was worried about that.

He smiled a bit. “Thank you,” he said, genuinely. 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE: FEAR/INSTINCT


 

WELL, it looked like Izuku had his answer. Even All Might had basically told him that a person couldn’t become a hero without a quirk and Izuku did not have that. Which meant that even if he wanted to become a hero, even if his family was different, was normal

It would not be possible. Heroism was impossible for quirkless individuals.

So it was villainy for him after all then. There had to be a way. He knew he could figure out how to convince his parents that he was perfectly capable of helping out with the Family Business, despite his quirklessness, with enough time. He wasn’t weak and he wasn’t stupid.

That’s all he wanted to do. To help them, in whatever way he could. He wanted to make himself useful to them, but the only way he could do that was if they actually let him be useful.

He hated his powerlessness. He wished he could do more, somehow, in some way. That’s all he wanted, to prove Tomura-nii wrong when he called him useless.

Well, he wanted to stand beside Kacchan as his equal, too… but that was impossible. Everything in him was meant to be a villain, so that was all he ever would be. This was who he was.  

Right?


The air around Izuku sung like a fiddle on a string, vibrating and ready for the next beat to fall. There was someone screaming in the distance. There was always someone screaming. He heard explosions, uneasy chatter—a plea for the right heroes to help, to arrive on the scene, to save the person trapped. It smelled like tar and sewer, an all too familiar smell.

Izuku coughed and inched through the crowds, elbowing his way closer. Did I somehow distract All Might when we were talking? I don’t understand how he’d escape from him otherwise…

There was someone struggling in the voluminous slime, with no small amount of desperation in their jerky movements. Izuku glanced at the heroes watching from the sidelines, doing nothing to help the victim.

Heroes were meant to accomplish the impossible. They weren’t even trying to save that poor person.

“Why aren’t the heroes saving that boy?” a little boy asked beside Izuku, looking up at his mother. The woman held her child close to her, not taking her eyes off the commotion.

“I don’t know… they’re afraid they’ll make the situation worse with their quirks.”

No wonder Tomura-nii hates heroes so much, Izuku couldn’t help but think as he watched with wide eyes, completely rooted to the spot. They fight for profit and they don’t even try to rescue because their quirks aren’t made for this type of work. If they got creative, there would have been a way to rescue that person.

The person screamed, setting off powerful explosions from their body, and Izuku stopped thinking as he stared because that couldn’t… could it? Was it possible that Kacchan had gotten entangled with the slime villain as well?

Like the moment before lightning struck during a thunderstorm, the air sizzled and crackled with tension, hot at a wire and dangerous. Crimson red eyes opened and somehow, through the energy, his eyes met Izuku, wide and desperate and frightened as he gasped.

Izuku’s legs moved.

He swerved under Kamui Wood’s arms, branching out and pushing civilians back just like the trees his quirk copied. He ran—not away from the villain, like most rational people apparently, but toward the villain, toward Kacchan, toward his friend—

Kacchan, Kacchan, Kacchan he thought with every step he took and I must save him with every breath he took and his eyes looked like they were crying out for help with every fiber of his being.

He shrugged his backpack off, planted his feet in the ground, and threw it at the villain’s eyes—its weak spot. The villain screamed and drew away, and Izuku leapt into it, clawed desperately at the slime enclosed around Kacchan’s limbs, ignored his watering eyes. Kacchan jerked his head free, heaved and gasped for air; yanked an arm away and aimed an explosion at the slime—

“What the fuck are you doing?!” he gasped. “You’re going to get yourself killed too!”

Izuku shook his head. “I don’t know why or what I’m doing either! My legs just moved when I saw the look in your eyes!” His voice was hysterical as he tried to explain how he had just moved without thinking about it, as if he was a marionette controlled by a puppeteer’s strings.

“Get away, Deku!”

“No!” he shrieked as he clawed as the slime villain started to recover and trap Kacchan again. “You’re my only friend! I’m not going to let you die, dammit!”

“It’s not your choice!”

High pressure developed, just like it had once before, and then was a shout of “TEXAS SMASH!” from a very familiar voice, and again, the slime villain was defeated, blown away by All Might into tiny bits and pieces. Kacchan fell to his knees, gasping and coughing and choking up the slime that had been pushed up his nose and down his throat. Izuku couldn’t stop sobbing as his knees gave out and he stumbled and fell onto the cold, hard pavement.

His knees stung and his eyes hurt and he couldn’t stop shaking either. He reached out to try to touch Kacchan, but Kacchan knocked his arm aside with a small explosion. He shouted, “Deku, you idiot! I had it under control!”

“You’d have died!” Izuku yelled back at him, holding his arms to his chest.

“You would have too!”

But they both quieted when All Might and the rest of the heroes came back, Izuku because he didn’t want them to recognize his connection to his own father and Kacchan because he was in the presence of his idol. Kamui Woods frowned down at him, and Izuku couldn’t help but flinch back at such displeasure.

“That was very reckless. You could have gotten killed,” he scolded him. “But, it was brave. What’s your quirk?”

“I’m… I don’t have one.”

“Stupid,” Kamui Woods muttered. “It’s only sheer luck that you managed to survive and didn’t make the situation worse.”

Izuku flinched.

Kacchan was praised for his powerful quirk and his bravery, by All Might and the other heroes, but Izuku knew his friend was fuming at being unable to escape, at being so weak…

The back of his neck prickled, and when he glanced over his shoulder, he saw All Might staring at him with a peculiar expression on his face. He wasn’t smiling, but he wasn’t scowling either—if anything, he looked thoughtful.

But as soon as Izuku noticed, All Might was pulled back into the reporter’s questions about the incident, and the strange expression was forgotten. Izuku sat there for a while, listening to the heroes praising Kacchan and bearing the scolding without saying a word, even though he wanted to say you weren’t doing anything while my friend was dying, I couldn’t stay away, why did you do nothing—

Kacchan grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet. His grip was bruising and his movements were too forced to be gentle, and he didn’t let go or loosen his grip as he marched them out of there without letting go of his wrist. Izuku tried wriggling it out of his grasp, but it was too tight. Kacchan’s pace was fast, so he stumbled and fell and Kacchan jerked him back up with a yell.

“Ka-Kacchan, stop, let go, you’re hurting my arm!” he said, when they got away from the reporters and heroes. But Kacchan didn’t let go, so Izuku tried to yank his arm out of his grasp, and failed.

“Stop with the weak-ass struggling,” Kacchan barked over his shoulder. “It’s pissing me off.”

“Stop hurting me and I’ll stop the weak-ass struggling,” Izuku snapped back at him.

Kacchan turned suddenly, all of a sudden aggressive with exploding fists, bumping his hip against his and forcing Izuku to step away from him until his back hit a wall. His arms framed around his head, and Izuku swallowed as he looked up and met his boiling crimson gaze. There was no way to get out of this either…

Don’t ever do that again,” he hissed. “I didn’t need your shitty weak ass to save me, do you hear me? I’m not pathetic enough to need you to save me.” He spat the last bit out with a sneer. “I’m above you, Deku. Don’t forget that and look down on me.”

“Where are you getting all of this from? I’ve never looked down on you!” Izuku tried to knock Kacchan’s arms away and failed. “I saw you and you looked like you were asking for help and my legs moved before I could think.”

Kacchan probably would have punched him in that moment, if he was a different person, a crueler, harder person, but he barred his teeth at him and stepped back, finally allowing Izuku the space to breathe. Izuku rubbed his sore wrist and pressed his back against the wall, glaring at his friend.

“That was mean,” he repeated, from already. Kacchan looked aside and licked his lips.

“… don’t die. You’re not meant to be a martyr or some kind of goddamn hero.”

“Yeah, I know,” Izuku said, bitter about the reminder of what All Might had told him as well. “It’s not like I could forget with my quirklessness.”

Kacchan looked at him weirdly, opened his mouth, and then very deliberately closed it after hesitating for several seconds. Izuku took several deep breaths and tried to calm his racing heart. His eyes ached. So did his head. All he wanted to do was sleep.

“Are you okay?”

No, I’m stressed and terrified about what I’m going to do in the future because I’m useless because I’m normal like most people were several hundred years ago.

“I’m fine,” he lied. He smiled. “Don’t worry about me.”

Katsuki didn’t look like he believed him, but he didn’t really say anything. Instead he took another step away, still not quite meeting his eyes. “I’m sorry about your arm. Did I hurt you?”

“No,” Izuku said.

“Don’t fucking lie to me. You said I was earlier.”

Izuku paused, pressed his lips together, and allowed his shoulders to slump. “Okay, fine, you did hurt me a little. But it’s nothing, really.”

But Katsuki still moved and tugged his arm up to inspect it. There were bruises forming around his wrist along with a very small burn mark, both of them in the shape of his hand.

“Fuck,” Katsuki muttered under his breath. “I’m sorry I burned you. I have some ointment at my house that soothes burns good if you want some.”

Mom would freak out whenever she sees it. Izuku shook his sleeve to cover the marks, hiding it from the world. With luck, his family wouldn’t notice it and so they wouldn’t have any reason to turn on the news.

With luck.

He had rotten luck. They probably already knew what happened and were discussing how much of a disappointment he was to the Family Business, for needing to be rescued by All Might and for drawing attention to himself.

“I have to get home before my mom and the rest of my family gets worried about me,” he explained. “I’m sure they must have seen the news by now.”

Katsuki frowned. “I’ll bring it over tomorrow before school then. Don’t be late. Actually, you know what? Come to my house early and I’ll put it on there.”

“Okay,” Izuku agreed, because he wouldn’t be able to get out of Katsuki hovering around him the next few days like a nervous mother hen fretting over her chicks. He might be sharp and mean around the edges, and had a hair-trigger temper, but he still cared.

Izuku stepped forward, once, twice, thrice, and then he leaned his forehead against his collarbone and closed his eyes. “Thanks,” he said.

Katsuki didn’t say anything in response, nor did he move a muscle, but that was okay because he was still here. Solid and dependable as always. Izuku stepped away, brushed the stinging tears out of his eyes, and smiled widely.

“I’ll be fine walking home on my own. Don’t worry about me.”

“I wasn’t worried,” Kacchan argued, but there was no heat in his voice as he immediately turned around and stomped off in the opposite direction. Izuku sighed in relief when he disappeared from his sight.

That was… he never wanted to do something like that again in his life. Two near-death experiences in his life was more than enough to last him a lifetime.

But there had been something exhilarating about that rush of adrenaline, that desperation to live or die. And the way his legs had moved before he could even think, to save Kacchan, who was his childhood friend, sure… but people always said villains destroyed everything they touched. People died around villains, it was as simple as that.

Yet Izuku, who was the son of the two most infamous villains in living memory, had saved a life. It had been entirely instinct, over-ruling the terror that had rooted him to the ground. It wasn’t life-altering or earth-shattering, but it was… something else entirely.

He didn’t know what to think.

Pressing his hand into the burn marks on his wrist, he frowned down and wondered what he could do about hiding them from his parents. Both of them. Mom would be furious, wanting to either ban him from talking to Kacchan again or going after Kacchan herself to explain why hurting her son was the wrong move. Father would be furious too, but probably more at him because he had allowed himself to be injured, not Kacchan. If he was watching the news, which was almost certain, then it was likely that he’d be in for a scolding for drawing attention to himself.

Izuku looked up suddenly. At the end of the road, a tall, thin man stood still. He recognized the skeletal-like figure—Yagi, it must be Yagi. The same person who was All Might, except this was his true form and the hero form wasn’t.

Even the number one hero had secrets surrounding him, a carefully constructed image to protect the public from panic while he single-handedly kept villains at bay. If that image, that symbol of peace he represented, was ever destroyed…

Izuku picked up his pace from walking to a slow jog, and when he was within ten feet of the hero, he slowed to a halt and stared.

“Yagi-san? What are you doing here?” he asked, shaking his sleeve to cover his wrist and hiding it behind his back. He tightened his grasp around his backpack. He scoffed his feet against the ground.

“I’m here to thank you and to offer a proposal.”

“Huh?”

Yagi smiled, gestured toward the bench set off to the side, and Izuku followed him, sitting on the edge of the seat and ready to flee in a heartbeat if needed. He pressed his hands together and laid them down on his lap, tilting his head to the side.

“If you hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have been so moved by your determination to rescue your friend, and I would have failed in my duty as a hero to go beyond my limits to save a civilian. So, I must thank you.”

Izuku stayed silent, mostly because he didn’t know what to say in response to that. All Might was the number one hero, an incredible hero, even Izuku knew that and his parents were villains—but he was human too. He had his limits. So, for him to say that Izuku inspired him to go beyond that limit, when it was always the other way around…

Yagi leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, ducking his head a little—and Izuku realized that he was trying to reach his gaze, even though Izuku kept trying to look down at his hands. He blinked.

“Your legs—they moved on their own before you could think, didn’t they?”

Izuku’s mouth was dry. So incredibly dry. But he nodded and spoke, tried to explain as if it had been forced out of him. “I didn’t think… it was all on instinct. I had to save Kacchan. Nobody else was doing anything to help him and I just—I couldn’t stand aside and let him be hurt like that.”

He couldn’t. He was his friend. His only friend.

Yagi nodded, as if he knew exactly how Izuku had felt.

“You, a quirkless child, ran to save your friend despite the danger and despite common sense telling you not to at a time no one else could act. Many heroes have said that their bodies moved before they could think, to save someone on complete instinct. This is what happened to you, right?”

Tears stung Izuku’s eyes, even though he didn’t know why. All his life, everyone around him told him he was worthless or useless. Father hadn’t even given him a quirk even though he had more than enough ability. And now… All Might was telling him he could become a hero.

“I—I don’t understand. Why are you telling me this? I’m—I—I can’t—I’m quirkless, I can’t—I’m useless. There’s no way I’m remotely heroic—it was just for Kacchan—” He looked at Yagi, and Yagi shook his head.

“You can become a hero,” he said, voice soft, and Izuku stared and stared. Hot tears fell down his cheeks.

“I can’t,” he said softly, shaking his head. “I have no quirk. My parents wouldn’t allow it.” My parents are villains.

“You can,” said All Might. A light shone in his hand as he held it out to Izuku, until he closed his fist around it, shutting out the light. “You, who possessed no power, were the one who shined more than the other so-called heroes. That’s why I decided that you’re the one who is worthy of inheriting my quirk.”

Wait, what?

“I’m sorry, what? Inherit your quirk…? But quirks are genetic, there’s no way…” but then Izuku trailed off, remembering how his father once mentioned a brother who stole a quirk from him and passed it down onto his successor. Did All Might’s quirk work like that somehow?

“Many people generally mislabel my quirk under a generic super strength boost, and I’ve always evaded the topic in interviews when it comes up. However, while that’s correct, my quirk has another aspect to it that’s unknown to the public—it’s a power like the sacred torch of legend, the one that comes from one bearer to the next.”

A quirk that’s inherited… but that’s so hard to wrap my head around it. There’s nothing in history that left a trace that it’s possible, outside of the family. Everyone has their own individualities which make up the fundamental factor of their quirk—

“Jeez, kid, there’s no need to look so skeptical. I might keep a lot to my chest, but I don’t tell lies.”

Izuku shut up and looked back up at Yagi, trying to wipe his face blank. Yagi still had that thoughtful expression on his face.

“My quirk is the power to transfer power, and the name of this ability I’ve been entrusted with is called One for All.”

Just… like… All for One. Just like father’s quirk.

Izuku stayed silent, overwhelmed by the information Yagi was giving to him.

“One man cultivates the power and then gives it to another. Again, it’s fostered and passed down, and in doing so, it strengthens over time so that hearts with the unwavering call to save lives can utilize this quirk.”

“Why are you offering this quirk to someone like me? I’ve never even wanted to enter heroics.”

Even though I admire you and Kacchan wishes to become stronger than you and I want to emulate Kacchan… heroics was never a possible path for me.

Or, at least, it hadn’t been possible for him before now.

“I’ve been looking for a successor for a while now, and I finally stumbled upon you.” Yagi explained. “You who, quirkless and therefore powerless, with no interest in being a hero, still moved on instinct to protect your friend, a quality of a true hero.”

“I…” Izuku said softly. “It was for Kacchan. He’s my only friend. I don’t see that as really heroic; all I wanted was to save him.”

“But your body moved to save him before you could think, didn’t it?”

“I… yes.” He admitted. It’d been instinct for him to save Kacchan.

Yagi smiled wryly. “Of course, it is your choice to inherit this power entirely and the responsibility to saving people that comes along with it.”

Izuku looked into the distance because… part of him did want to accept this. Part of him wanted to spite his father and accept a quirk and prove to him that he wasn’t useless, but the larger part of him wanted to learn what it was like to be like All Might, to have a chance to stand with Kacchan as his equal…

“All I’ve ever wanted, my entire life, is to be useful,” he admitted quietly. “Not useless. Not worthless. Good for something. And… and accepting your quirk, it means I’d be able to help people, right?”

“Yes. Even though heroics is difficult and often self-sacrificial, you would help people.”

He raised his hand to his face, swiped his arm across his cheeks to dry his tears, and took a deep breath. For Kacchan; it was for Kacchan.

Maybe for himself a little, too. He never had a heroic bone in his body, his entire family were villains, but… he wanted to get to know Yagi, or All Might, or both of them. His father would be furious with him for accepting a foreign quirk, would be even more so once he discovered it was All Might’s quirk, but…

Something.

Or maybe it was the rush of exhilaration still clouding his judgement, maybe it was the way that some part deep inside of him practically sung with joy at… all of this. He wanted to help people, but more than anything else, he wanted to try to understand Kacchan, understand All Might, understand what drove heroes to act the way they did, to prove to his father that they could be reasoned with, that they could explain why they did the things they did…

He didn’t even know what it was that nudged him to accept this. Maybe it was all the small voices in the back of his head, the mean ones, that whispered he couldn’t and that he might as well just give up, since he was useless.

It’d be better than being forced into an arranged marriage because of his quirklessness, if he had no choice but to go to a quirkless school. Anything was better than that. Even heroics. Especially heroics.

At least his life would have some kind of meaning to it.

“Okay. I-I’ll do it.”

Even if he didn’t quite understand it right now.

Yagi looked surprised, but then his expression smoothed out into a small, relieved smile.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR: PUNISHMENT/REWARD


“SOMEBODY’S in trouble,” Tomura-nii sing-sang when Izuku snuck into the house and made his way up the stairs toward their bedroom to deposit his backpack on the floor. The bedroom door swung open and Tomura-nii stepped into the hallway, leaning his hip against the doorframe with an ugly smirk on his face. “Father saw the news.”

“Oh.” Izuku replied. Tomura-nii seemed too happy about the news, crowding close to him and backing him up against the wall. It was almost a relief that his hands were covered, as they always were.

“He wasn’t happy at all, Izu-kun. Mother had to talk him down from going after you after you fucked up with All Might. You should probably go and try to mitigate the damage before he thinks you’re avoiding him and gets angrier.”

Izuku shoved his brother out of his way and shouldered into their bedroom. Tomura-nii followed on his heels, nearly tripping over him when he stopped abruptly to deposit his backpack at the foot of his bed.

“I forgot to mention it earlier. Father decided to promote me into a more active role in the Family Business. In a few months, Kurogiri and I will start actively planning to take down All Might with father’s assistance.”

“What? But… I thought…” Izuku bit his tongue to stop himself. Just after he had gone to father about having a more active role in the Family Business as well…

“What? You thought? You always think a lot, but never consider your true place in society— do you, Deku ?” he sneered the last word out, and Izuku reared up, heart aching at the sound of Kacchan’s cruel nickname coming from his brother’s mouth in that tone of voice. But then he sighed and forced himself to slump his shoulders—there was no use in fighting with Tomura-nii.

Tomura-nii always won and he always got his way in the end.

“You’re right,” he agreed, standing up. Tomura-nii practically stepped on his heels as Izuku walked out of the room and down the hall. “Would you stop doing that?”

“Doing what?”

“Following me!”

Tomura-nii smirked but he did stop following him, turning right toward the library while Izuku went left toward father’s office.  He let out a soft sigh of relief and slumped against the wall once Tomura-nii rounded the corner and disappeared from sight.

Father must be so angry, so disappointed…

Not only had he needed to be rescued by heroes, broadcasting it on television, but he accepted All Might’s quirk. He wanted to think, wanted a moment to panic and understand what the hell it had been that had compelled him—because he didn’t understand how he had accepted the hero’s quirk so impulsively.

He didn’t understand how he, the son of All for One, could inherit All Might’s quirk.

He didn’t understand anything at all, really.

Izuku sat and he stared and he tried not to cry—but it was terrifying, just a little, to imagine how his father was going to react to the news he ought to bring to him. All Might had asked him not to tell anyone about his quirk, but father already knew about it and…

His punishment would be worse, if he tried to hide it from him.

He stood up on shaking knees, but before he could take one step closer to his office, mom walked around the corner with a small frown on her face.

“Oh, Izuku!” she cried out, rushing over and putting a hand on his face. “I’m so relieved you’re all right. I was worried about you when you got caught up in that villain’s attack—and then when you rushed in to dig Katsuki out of that sludge… what were you thinking though? Don’t you know how dangerous it is? You could have been recognized!”

A lot of people said that he was the splitting image of his mother—the exact same green eyes, similar hair color, same complexion. Their personalities were similar as well, which was why a lot of people compared him to her. He assumed that was why he felt closer to her than father.

Izuku allowed himself to sink into her warmth when she tugged him close and wrapped her arms around him in an embrace. He closed his eyes and hugged her back.

His eyes stayed dry by some kind of miracle.

“I’m sorry I worried you. How mad is he?”

She pulled away and caressed his cheek gently. “It’s not that your father is mad—he’s just worried about you.”

“But—Tomura-nii said he was angry I had to be saved by All Might?”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with that boy…. Your brother has a tendency to confuse a parent’s worry with irrational anger,” mom said, with a small frown. “Your father was worried about your safety since All Might could have recognized you as our son. You know how heroes are—always acting like we’re evil when all we want is a better world for our children.”

But… Yagi-san had been so kind, Izuku didn’t say out loud. Maybe it’s possible to negotiate with the heroes.

Or at least, it would be if father actually listened to his ideas and allowed him to help with the Family Business. But he was the treasured youngest son—meant to be protected by those who know better.

“Let’s go make dinner together, okay? I know it must have been terrifying, being in danger like that…”

“It wasn’t,” Izuku retorted impulsively, before he could think. Mom looked surprised.

“It… wasn’t?”

No, it wasn’t that she looked surprised—her lips thinned and her eyebrows furrowed together in a simple display of displeasure. Izuku swallowed and dropped his gaze to the ground.

“There was something… exhilarating about fighting for my life like that. I don’t quite understand it.”

“Ah, the adrenaline from the fight. Don’t worry, you’ll crash hard soon and understand then. It’s not something you really want to experience more than you have to; that’s why Tomura is the heir.”

It wasn’t the adrenaline, I already crashed after almost dying the first time around. It was something else entirely.

But he didn’t argue with her, because while she was more receptive to his ramblings and questions than father in general, he suspected that if he pushed it, he would learn where her tolerance ran short. Intimately.


At dinner, Izuku picked at the broccoli and pork while Tomura-nii smiled nastily at him when their parents weren’t watching him and father stared at him the entire meal without glancing away once. Mom gave up trying to make conversation halfway into the meal.

“So. You met All Might.”

Father didn’t sound upset or angry or like anything really. His tone was matter of fact, as if he was commenting on the weather rather than his son running into his mortal foe. Izuku hands trembled.

Why were his hands trembling? It wasn’t like he was frightened of his father.

“I did,” he agreed.

Father hummed, going silent for a while. Izuku fidgeted and tried not to fidget, which caused him to fidget more. Tomura-nii’s eyes jumped between him and father for a while, like he was watching a particularly interesting tennis match, before he let out a long sigh and slumped, resting his chin in his hand (thumb not touching his own skin as always).

“That’s it? You were so angry earlier.”

“I was upset, Tomura,” father scolded, his voice sharp. “I thought All Might was going to harm your brother. Of course I’d be angry with the hero who would dare try to harm my living family.”

Izuku licked his lips and took a bite of the food. It was supposed to taste delicious—mom’s cooking always was—but it tasted more like cardboard than actual food.

“I thought about the proposal you made this morning, before you walked to school with Katsuki.” Father’s tone of voice was conversational.

Izuku watched him lift his glass of blood red wine and sip at it delicately, staining his lips red and giving his face color. He wished he could see his eyes, maybe then it would be easier to read his mood. They had been gray, like Tomura-nii’s, but now they were covered in scar tissue from his injuries due to his fight with All Might.

And then his words registered in his head and a stone dropped into the pit of his stomach. He remembered now—the way he fought so hard to convince his father to involve him more with the Family Business. But now that he was training to accept All Might’s quirk, then… if he got involved, surely All Might would figure out that he’s a villain and try to kill him like he tried to kill his father?

Father was going to be furious when he discovered that he accepted inheriting Yagi’s quirk. He might even forbid and bar him from going out to meet with him to train at the location the pro-hero had texted to meet him at tomorrow evening.

“You… have?” He tried to keep all emotion out of his tone of voice, not allowing any worry or hope to bleed through. Maybe he did it a little too good, since mom’s hovering fork paused and she looked up at him in surprise. “I thought you said absolutely not? Tomura-nii is the heir of the Family Business after all.”

“That’s what I had said, but you left your notepad behind on my desk and I took the liberty of reading it. I was impressed with your rationality—especially on the part about negotiating with the stronger villains to potentially work together. I hadn’t considered it feasible to rule the underworld without force until you outlined in your own handwriting reasons why we should try and how we can approach them to become our… business partners.”

“No!” Tomura-nii shouted suddenly, slamming his hands down on the table and rattling the fine china. A tea cup slipped over the edge of the table, but mom caught it in its freefall and jerked it back to its original place with her quirk. “Izuku’s not supposed to interfere with the family business! This is my time, I get to defeat All Might! Not him with his stupid, pacifist ways! I won’t let him show me up!”

“Sit down and calm yourself, Tomura. You’re nearly an adult, act like it and respect your father.” Mom snapped icily, glaring at Tomura-nii. Izuku sunk into his chair and tried to hide from her. Tomura-nii glared back for a few seconds, looking tempted to disobey her, but the chinaware on the table started rattling with the force of mom’s quirk—a subtle, but clear, display of her sheer strength of power—and he eventually sat down with a scowl.

Father coughed delicately and set his wine down on the table. Izuku kept his mouth shut.

“As I was saying,” he said, looking away from his brother and back at him. “I believe it might be a good idea to test your theory. I’d like for you to negotiate with the leader of another group of villains, called the Eight Precepts. See if you can convince them to join our side… without giving anything we have up.”

Well.

I have everything I ever wanted in my life, right in front of my fingertips, and if I reached out to grab it, I’d receive it… yet here I am, desperately wishing he hadn’t chosen now of all times.

He’d always seemed to draw the short end of the stick, but now he understand what that meant. All Might had offered to him his quirk, and now his father was offering him a chance to prove himself, and he didn’t think he could have both.

Maybe… maybe he should tell father. But how? He’d see right through him in a heartbeat, realize his reasons for accepting All Might’s quirk was… he didn’t even know what his reasons were, other than he didn’t want to be quirkless and he wanted to get to know Yagi-san better as a human being.

“Um.” He said, intelligently, and mom looked at him.

“Izuku? What’s wrong? You’d be over the moon if you got a chance like this earlier today. Did something happen? You’re hesitating when you’ve been trying to convince us you’re worthy to take on responsibility for the Family Business.”

He should have counted for mom’s perceptiveness—her mind was as sharp as a razor, just as quick as father’s. He’d inherited his own quick wit from someone after all.

“I—I…” The walls of the room were caving in on him, trapping him at the kitchen table. He put his fork down. His hand was trembling again. Why? He swallowed and pushed his fear aside with a smile. “I’m speechless. I thought… thank you.”

“Did something happen today, Izuku? With All Might?” asked father, sounding worried, and Izuku slumped his shoulders with a sigh. There was no use in trying to hide what was going on underneath his own nose. He’d figure out what was going on eventually anyway, if he hadn’t already.

He already felt guilty, a small churning in his stomach which made it difficult to eat.

“All Might offered to give me his quirk. I accepted it.”

There were several seconds of silence as his answer sank into their heads.

What ?” Mom gasped, rounding on him. “Izuku, quirks aren’t inherited, they’re created through genetics. It’s impossible for you to receive All Might’s quirk.”

“Actually…” Izuku mumbled. “He said it’s like a torch, passed down from one generation to the next. He was pretty detailed about explaining it too. He’d have no reason to lie to me about it anyway.”

“Are you fucking joking ?”

“Tomura!” she yelled. “Set a good example for your brother and stop swearing !”

“Why the fuck should I stop? I can’t believe Izuku’s gone behind our backs and got desperate enough to ask All Might of all people to give him a quirk. How did he make enough of an impression on that hero to do that?”

“Yes, Izuku…” interrupted father, making the chaos stutter to a halt as mom and Tomura-nii turned to face him. “I am wondering just that. How did you convince All Might to give you his quirk?”

He was half expecting father to be more angry with him, to demand more answers, to claim that he was a horrible, terrible son for accepting All Might’s quirk. He was expecting some kind of punishment for his behavior, for going behind his parents’ backs, clearly against their wishes.

They didn’t want him to have a quirk. Now, he somehow got All Might to give his to him.

“When Kacchan was trapped in that man’s sludge, he looked so frightened—like he was going to die. And the heroes were doing nothing to save him, which was their job. So my body moved and I tried to save him. That’s why All Might offered his quirk to me—said he thought that I could be a hero, even though I had no interested in heroics, so I accepted his quirk. It happened so quickly I barely had time to think. I’m sorry.”

“That was incredibly reckless, Izuku—” Mom started, and Izuku flinched at how upset she sounded. There were tears welling in her eyes, which was a relatively rare occurrence. But then father interrupted her with a little humming sound.

“Why are you apologizing? This is excellent.”

“What?” Izuku and Tomura-nii asked at the same time, over each other, with Tomura-nii sounding angry. Father smiled.

“This means that one of my original quirks will return back to my family and we’ll be able to place a potential spy on the heroes… this is excellent. ” Father sounded completely delighted by this turn of events, as if an unexpected opportunity had literally just fallen into his lap. Which, apparently, it had. Izuku frowned.

“Original quirk?” he echoed, tilting his head to the side.

“Oh, have I never told you about how my brother stole a quirk I gave him?”

Izuku shook his head.

“Hmm, I thought I did tell you about this, but I must be mistaken. Well, this happened a couple centuries ago, when I had been a young man and my older brother had been alive. I made the mistake of trusting him with a stockpiling quirk and he turned against me, establishing the foundation of today’s hero society with his quirk. In addition to the stockpiling quirk I gifted him, he also had a secondary quirk that allowed him to pass that quirk down to an heir of his choice. Each generation increases the strength of that quirk and changes it slightly, and now All Might uses that quirk in this day.”

“I see,” he said softly, as he considered what his father told him. “And now that All Might has offered his quirk to me and is committed to training me, I shall be the next person to receive it.”

Father nodded. If he still had a face, he might have smiled at him.

“This is awfully convenient,” said mom, looking at father with a small frown. Father shook his head.

“I had nothing to do with All Might selecting Izuku to inherit his quirk. I was going to tell Izuku that I’ve allowed him to negotiate with Chisaki, but clearly he’s going to be busy with All Might…”

“I can do both,” Izuku spoke up swiftly, cutting father off. He smiled and squashed the nervousness down as far as it would go. “I’ll just have to be smart about it and not tip him off to negotiating with a villain about… what am I negotiating?”

“But is it safe for Izuku to train under him and go to—hero school I assume?” asked mom, not answering Izuku’s question. “If All Might finds out that he’s our son, that he’s connected to villains, he’s going to take him in for questioning and we all know that heroes never look kindly upon villains. They’re cruel and sadistic to even children.”

“All Might’s greatest weakness is his heart. If he gets attached to Izuku, he won’t allow harm come to him— if it comes out.” Here, father fixed Izuku with a pointed glare. “We’ve worked hard to make sure you’re not affiliated with the Family Business, so you’ll be able to pass the background checks at any hero school you apply to, even UA. The only way he’ll discover your true allegiance is if you somehow have a slip of the tongue.”

“I won’t,” Izuku replied instantly. He knew he was good with words, it was one of the few things he was good at. He knew he wouldn’t accidentally tell All Might he was All for One and Iron Will’s child. “I’ll be careful,” he added, for mom’s benefit.

“I don’t like this,” she said. “I think it’s far too dangerous for you to walk this high wire, negotiating with Chisaki as well as trying to develop a relationship to All Might. One false move and you’ll fall. I’d be far more comfortable if you went with one route or the other.”

Izuku reached across the table and took her hands in his, closing his fingers around hers. He smiled, trying to reassure her. “I have to prove myself worthy. Just like Tomura-nii has.”

She blinked tears away. “You’re my baby boy—a child. You’re not old enough yet.”

“All children must grow up, Inko.” Father said. “If Izuku thinks he’s able to take this task on his own two shoulders, then I believe in him and will support his endeavor. That’s our duty as his parents.”

Mom glared at father, sour as lemons and poisonous as a viper, but she eventually sighed and allowed her shoulders to slump.

Don’t do anything reckless,” she warned him, her tone sharp.

Izuku nodded.

He didn’t want to cause her any undue worry and he didn’t want to draw extra attention to his family or the Family Business. He would be careful.

Tomura-nii’s chair scraped against the floor loudly as he stood up and left the kitchen table without saying a word. His plate clattered as he slammed it on the counter and left the room.

“You’ll need to talk to him,” mom said to father with a sigh. “That boy has gotten so temperamental… I don’t know how to connect to him anymore.”

“I’ll talk with him when he calms down,” said father soothingly.

Izuku picked at his rice. “I’m never going to cause you as much trouble as Tomura-nii.”

Mom laughed for some reason. “You worry me in completely different ways from your brother. Now, finish up your dinner then go upstairs to do your homework.”


Tomura-nii didn’t look at Izuku once for the rest of the night or even the next morning. Izuku gave up trying to talk to him.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE: GAME START/OLD SCHOOL


 

THE next morning before school started, Izuku made sure to stop by Kacchan’s house, just like how his friend had told him to come. Mrs. Bakugou opened the door with a wide smile when he knocked on it.

“This is a pleasant surprise,” she said, gesturing for him to come inside. “It’s nice to see you again. How is your mother doing?”

“She’s well,” Izuku replied politely, taking his shoes off by the door and sliding into the house slippers the Bakugous supplied for their guests. “Quite busy though. Did Kacchan not tell you he invited me over this morning?”

“That brat never tells me a thing,” she grumbled, rolling her eyes. “Or his father for that matter. What did he do this time?”

“Uh…” he brushed his hair out of his eyes to buy time to think about what he was supposed to say. He should have expected Kacchan not telling his parents about offering ointment for his burns, which had already more or less faded. He always fought the idea of getting credit for his kindness; Izuku suspected it was because he didn’t want something like that to soften his rough guy reputation. “I burned my hands yesterday. He said he had a jar of ointment and to stop by this morning before school. I hope I’m not inconveniencing you?”

“Not at all! We love having you here, Katsuki tries to make a good impression on you. Have you eaten? Masaru’s in the kitchen making eggs.”

“I—”

“Mom! Stop tormenting Deku!” Kacchan stomped down the stairs with loud thumps and grabbed his wrist. Immediately, he tugged him back up the stairs.

“Kacchan! I was talking to your mom!” Izuku stumbled after him.

“Please, mom’s just trying to embarrass me. Let’s go. School’s going to start in an hour, you really had to shave it close, didn’t you?”

“Sorry!” He said to Kacchan’s mother, but she was already walking into the kitchen. He subjected himself to eating whatever the Bakugou family decided he had to eat, since he hadn’t told them that he’d already eaten a protein bar on the way here. He turned around and followed Kacchan up the stairs, toward his room. “You said just to stop over before school starts. I didn’t want to show up too early.”

“You know we wake up earlier than your weak-ass can handle,” Kacchan retorted, but the smirk on his face softened the harshness of his words. Izuku rolled his eyes and stayed silent. The elder Bakugous woke up early, information he had already known after a number of sleepovers. Kacchan himself though? He’d sleep in as much as he could get away with.

“So, where’s the ointment for the burns?” he asked. “You know I can barely feel them, right?”

“Yeah, but you don’t want it to scar, do you?”

“No—I guess— I suppose I don’t want that to happen.”

“Then the ointment is necessary.”

Kacchan led him into his bathroom and made Izuku sit on the tub as he pulled prescription medication out of the medicine cabinet, sitting it on his sink. Izuku glanced up and tried to see if there was anything different from the last time he had been in here a couple of months ago, but he saw nothing that had changed.

Poking his fingers together, Izuku cleared his throat and spoke up to dispel the comfortable silence between them. “So, uh, I’m going to be busy the next several months preparing for the high school exams.”

Kacchan grunted. “We both are, Deku. UA’s exams are no joke, and you have your… disability to overcome.”

“Well, yes. There is that.” But that didn’t even begin to cover everything. After all, he was training to accept All Might’s quirk under the number one hero’s guidance and his father was having him negotiate with another Business Partner for better terms. Which was scary, since he didn’t know what he was supposed to be negotiating for. “Father decided to give me additional training…”

“Really? What for? You’re already as smart as me.” Kacchan sat on the tub, reached out, and tugged Izuku’s arm across his lap without asking for permission. Izuku sighed loudly as he resigned himself to Kacchan’s manhandling.

“He wants me to negotiate. You know how Tomura-nii is, as hot-headed as you are and quick to jump in without thinking— ow, ow, ow! Stop tightening your grip on my burn, Kacchan!”

“Sorry,” said Kacchan, not sounding very apologetic at all, but he did loosen his grip. “I hate that asshole, so don’t compare me with him. I’m nothing like him.”

Izuku scowled. “I don’t get what your problem with Tomura-nii is. You haven’t talked to him since we were kids.”

“He dissolved my favorite All Might merchandise because he wanted to prove a point. When I was six .”

“That’s just the way he is.” Izuku shrugged off, and Katsuki rolled his eyes but didn’t offer any argument— just focused on smearing the chilly ointment over the burns that were imprinted into his wrist with his eyebrows furrowed in concentration. “But yeah, father wants me to learn how to negotiate, to help Tomura-nii when he inherits the business. So, between studying to get into a high school and that, I’m not going to have much time.”

Kacchan frowned. “Your dad never gave you the time of day before now, but now he wants you to… take a background role to your adopted brother? That’s not really fair to you at all. Aren’t you supposed to be your own person?”

“I’m just glad I can finally offer some way to be useful to my family.” Izuku admitted quietly, hunching his shoulders. “That’s all I want. And my mind is the only useful thing about me.”

He clucked his tongue and rolled his eyes. “ My parents wouldn’t expect me to do something like that. It wouldn’t make me happy.”

“But it makes me happy,” refuted Izuku, softly. Katsuki looked at him for a long moment, with a startling amount of clarity in his gaze that seemed to strip Izuku of the fronts and layers he pulled up around him as a shield. But then—Kacchan had always been able to do that with him, ever since they were young. They were childhood friends for a reason after all.

“Are you sure about that, Deku? It would definitely be pretty shitty way to live your life, just existing to satisfy someone else’s whims. Especially your brother’s.”

“I am,” Izuku replied firmly. “Besides, what else can I do?”

“A lot of things, probably. It’s not like you’re worthless.” He smiled at Izuku, with mischief sparking in his eyes, as he screwed the lid back onto the jar. “Just useless.”

“Jeez, you’re definitely going to be the type of hero that empowers people, aren’t you?”

“I’m the best at everything I do. So, obviously, I will.”

Even though Izuku knew he was half teasing him, he would never doubt Kacchan’s charisma. As hard and mean as he could be sometimes, he truly was amazing—and it was obvious to everyone around him, since he outshone even the sun.

In time, Kacchan would be a dangerous hero—a force to be reckoned with, an enemy they would have to figure out how to control or eliminate.

For now though, he was just his friend.

Part of him hoped they could always be that way, but he knew Kacchan’s personality and their roles in society. That was why he wanted to be the bridge that closed the gap between heroes and villains. Somehow, in some way… eventually.


Instead of taking the train to the location Yagi texted him, Izuku plugged in a pair of earphones to his cellphone, pulled up a playlist Kacchan made for him this morning, when he mentioned he was going to try working out on a regular basis, and slipped into running shoes.

“All Might texted me for the first meeting to train,” he explained when his mom noticed he was going out. Her eyebrows furrowed together minutely.

“Where are you going?”

“Dagoba Beach.”

“Huh… interesting. The currents tend to take a lot of litter to that place. Does All Might expect you to be able to clean it up?”

“I’m not sure what he wants me to do. Maybe we’re just meeting there?”

Mom frowned. “Well… if you go somewhere else, make sure to call and text your father or me so we know where you’re going. And don’t turn off your GPS.”

“I won’t turn it off,” said Izuku. “Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. I doubt the number one hero would try to kidnap me or something.”

“You’d be surprised by how cruel some heroes can be,” said mom, darkly. Izuku decided to not continue down this line of conversation, knowing that his mom could be a little too overprotective of him, sometimes. Which was completely fine! But this was All Might, and father knew where he was. “I wish you could take Tomura with you, or even Katsuki…”

“We both know this is supposed to be a secret.” He kissed her on the cheek and made his way out the front door. “Love you, mom! It’ll be fine.”

Somehow, miraculously, nothing bad happened when Izuku got to the location, huffing and puffing, and feeling like he was about to die because of the stitch in his side that developed from the jog. But he made it there, eventually— a few minutes before he was supposed to arrive even.

Yagi, who was in his true, emancipated form, watched with concern in his eyes as Izuku doubled over and gasped, but when he asked him if he was okay, Izuku waved the concern off and forced himself to straighten up. He fixed a smile on his face.

“I’m fine!” he replied brightly. “I just ran all the way here from my house.”

“That’s impressive.” He seemed completely genuine in his compliment. “Speaking of running, I have a plan for your training that I’ve been researching into. Which I’m calling the Aim to Pass: American Dream Plan! It’s going to be long and difficult, especially since we’re trying to get your body conditioned enough to accept my quirk by the time the high school entrance exams roll around for the Heroics Courses… speaking of which, do you know which High Schools you want to apply to?”

Izuku poked his fingers together. “Honestly, I don’t know yet. I was planning on maybe applying to Yuuei? But… I didn’t… I don’t know if any schools would accept me because of my quirklessness. So I haven’t really looked around much.”

“With that attitude, they certainly won’t!” Yagi poked him in his forehead, forcing him to look up at him. He smiled. “You need to have confidence in yourself, my boy! Along with no small amount of sheer, stubborn grit. We’re going plus ultra! Which means in addition to training your body, you need to keep training your mind.”

Gulping, he nodded once. “O-okay.”

Yagi pinched the bridge of his nose.

“While there is an undeniable business for heroics, such as marketing and trying to get media coverage and even the UA Sports Festival, most heroes tend to forget about doing simple things without taking credit for them. Basically, approaching heroics the old school way. That’s why starting tomorrow at six in the morning, you’re going to clear away the trash on this beach from here, all the way down that way.”

He pointed toward the bend, and it was such a long strip of land that made Izuku wonder if it was even possible to even finish clearing away all this trash in nine months. There were cars here! And refrigerators! There was no way he’d be able to move all of this…

“All of this?” he asked, nervously.

“All of this,” repeated Yagi. “Are you wanting to back out already?”

“No.” Izuku clenched his fist. He wanted to get to know Yagi and inherit All Might’s quirk so that it would come back into the family, so his father would be pleased with him. “Definitely not.”

“That’s the attitude I like to see! Go beyond, plus ultra!”

Yagi blinked at Izuku with that beaming grin of his, similar to the presence All Might had around him, clearly expecting him to copy his somewhat dorky pose—fist clenched and thrown into the sky. Izuku fought back (and failed at it) a smile.

“… plus ultra!” He repeated, not quite as loud, as he mimicked throwing his fist in the air.


Izuku slowly adjusted to waking up at five in the morning, instead of seven. He started getting used to the diet that All Might had prescribed to him—which was remarkably similar to the way Kacchan had started eating a couple months ago. He even began trying to squeeze some form of studying or training into every hour of every day…

It took time to adjust, but he did adjust. A few weeks after his first meeting with Yagi at the beach, Tomura-nii came into their room when he was home one evening and not at the beach, cleaning up trash in All Might’s “old school hero training.”

“Father wants to see you,” said Tomura-nii, sitting down on his bed and tugging his sneaker off. “Better go before you make him wait too long and he reconsiders if you’re responsible enough.”

“Don’t be mean.” Izuku frowned at him, but he set the weight down on the ground.

“I’m not being mean, just giving you a bit of brotherly advice. I’m concerned about your welfare and your potential, you know? Very much so.”

Izuku frowned at him. “You’ve been sulking and ignoring me for weeks because father decided that I’m responsible enough to have a more active role in the Family Business.”

Tomura-nii turned his back on him and opened his drawer of video games. Izuku stood up, not really interested in whatever he was going to play on his gaming station, taking his homework with him. He didn’t understand why his parents let Tomura-nii get away with playing video games all the time, when they yelled at him for even touching the HeroTube.

“I hope your character dies,” he said, a little spitefully, as he was chased out of his own room. He slammed the door shut behind him. He walked down the stairwell, put his books down on the kitchen table, and then went up the second stairwell to father’s side of the house.

I wish Tomura-nii wasn’t so belittling. Izuku’s hands trembled even though he tried to breathe

He smiled at Kurogiri when he saw him come out of father’s office. Kurogiri stopped. “Hello, Midoriya. How are your studies coming along?”

“Very good. It’s nice to see you around, it’s been a while.”

“Ah, yes.” If Kurogiri had a face, Izuku imagined it would match his sheepish tone of voice. “We’ve been preparing and creating the League of Villains to dismantle hero society. In fact, we decided to station our primary base at a bar next year in Kamino Ward.”

“Oh, Tomura-nii was talking about that a couple weeks ago. He said that father wanted him to lead that?”

“Yes, Shigaraki is going to be in charge of the League of Villains next year. I’m going to be his lieutenant.”

“That’s good. He respects your prowess as a villain almost as much as he respects our parents’. He might listen to you.”

Kurogiri smiled. “Your brother is as strong-willed as your mother. I do hope I can convince him to think before he acts though.”

Izuku smiled back. “I don’t mean to cut you off, but father asked me to see him, and I have homework I still need to complete—”

“Oh, of course! You mustn’t keep your father waiting too long. He’s a very busy man.” Kurogiri stepped aside.

“I know. I’ll see you around, Kurogiri-san.” Izuku opened the door and entered the office, offering a little wave to Kurogiri in farewell. The door closed with a click.

This entire room had been created to sustain life, a complex web of wires and whirling instruments that Izuku barely recognized and didn’t know how to operate. He took care to avoid the machinery, tip toeing between the wires and power cables.

“You’ve arrived,” said father, over the humming of his life support system and his oxygen mask. Izuku sat down in the chair across from the desk. “Good. I want to talk to you about the leader of the Eight Precepts, and our individual objectives.”

“Yes,” Izuku agreed, pulling his legs up and under his body. “I was wondering about that, but I’ve been so busy…”

“I know. You’ve been busy training with All Might to accept his quirk, it must be very difficult.” Izuku waited for him to elaborate, and his patience was rewarded when father pulled a file folder out of his drawer and pushed it across the desk. Izuku leaned over and opened it. There was a picture of a man with beady eyes, brown hair, and a plague mask strapped around his mouth on the first page. “This is Chisaki Kai, the head of one of the most well-connected villainous groups. His mission is to bring back the glory days of the yakuza.”

“He looks threatening.”

“Does he? Don’t allow his looks to intimidate you. He’s a weak man who looks for the easy way to accomplish things.”

“If he’s like that, then why do you want to associate with him?”

“He possesses a serum that causes individuals to become quirkless, which is why we want to persuade him to become our ally. I want to learn more about this serum, as it might be

interesting to help us in our fight with heroes oppressing those who are weaker than them.”

“I see…” and Izuku did see, because if they had this serum that rendered people quirkless, which was the thing they valued the most in this society, then it meant that the playing field was leveled between the ordinary and extraordinary. “And it looks like he wants to bring back the yakuza… so, would we offer our contacts in exchange for this serum?”

Father smiled. “Very good, Izuku,” he said warmly. “Yes, Chisaki would want our vast network of connections to the business world, of the so called ‘proper society.’ I have some contacts within the government and real estate that you can use as bait.”

“Bait? But shouldn’t this be an equal win-win situation for both of us?”

“You need to learn that I never accept bad deals for the Family Business. I was considering exterminating his base of operations completely and seizing the serum for myself, but… this solution is more effective in the long run, for the both of us.”

“I understand.” Father turned back to the computer, dismissing him subtly, so Izuku stood up and bowed, tucking the file folder under his arm. “I will not disappoint you, father.”

Father stopped typing for a split-second. “That would be awfully hard for you to do, my boy. Aim to surpass my expectations instead. It won’t be difficult either.”

The sting set in after Izuku left the office and understood the meaning behind his words.

He… doesn’t expect anything out of me, because he expects me to fail.

Well. He’d just surpass those expectations then. Father was right—it won’t be difficult. This was the first chance he was offered to prove his capability, so he wasn’t going to fall short and fail now.

He couldn’t.

Though a vast majority of him wanted to please his parents, to be useful for once in his life, there was a small part of him that screamed and writhed with fury, itching to fight the same way Kacchan fought everything under the sun, to prove that he was worth something.

Even if it was just to himself.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX: WATCH/LEARN


THE first order of business was to gather information about Chisaki Kai in his natural environment, to see if there were any places where Izuku could approach him in public. He would have written a letter to him, but as he flipped through the file folder at the kitchen table, he noticed something interesting.

Chisaki was in several photos, and all of those photos were taken around the same place of a long period of time.. at a certain time of the day. Which meant it was a pattern that Izuku could take advantage of. He could watch and observe him, until he figured out the best way to approach him.

It certainly wouldn’t be in public.

So, obviously, the best way to learn how to approach him was to watch him. Repeatedly. After all, the best was to gather information about a supposedly infamous villain was to follow them around and observe their habits in public places, right? Then he would be able to approach him without causing an uproar, and—

“Chisaki Kai?” Mom read out loud, looking at the sheet of paper over Izuku’s shoulder. Izuku shut the file folder but the damage was done. “He’s quite dangerous. How are you going to talk to him?”

“I’m going to watch him and then I’ll approach him.”

“Why not just write a letter?”

Izuku shrugged. “I don’t know how he would react if I just announced my intention to negotiate with him.”

“That’s why you would entice him with further information to convince him to follow back on it.”

“I don’t know…” Izuku said, uncertain. Mom’s hands hovered over his hunched shoulders. “Something tells me I should watch and see for some reason.”

Her fingers grasped his shoulders and she pressed a kiss against his cheek. He smiled up at her. “Whatever direction you chose to walk in, know that I’ll always support you. If you have questions or need advice, all you need do is ask.”

“I will. Thanks, mom.”

She ruffled his hair and stepped away from him. “How about I make us some supper? I think I have the ingredients sitting around here somewhere…” And off she went, muttering under her breath as she pulled pantry items out of the cabinetry.

Izuku watched her, silent as usual.


At lunch, Izuku trailed after Katsuki with Yagi’s prescribed meal clutched in his hands, following him up to the roof. They sat, allowing their legs to dangle over the edge as they both act their respective meals in silence.

It was funny, Izuku never noticed it before, but he thought that Kacchan’s diet was similar to the one he was on now. All vegetables and proteins and carbs and little sugar, to build strength in the body.

Izuku stole a bit of the leftover, ignoring Kacchan’s stink-eye. “Delicious and nutritious,” he said, looking at him out of the corner of his eyes. “I wouldn’t expect anything less of Kacchan.”

“What else would you expect?” Kacchan yelled, crowding him and threatening him with explosive fists, but his eyes were smiling. “ I made it myself, after all. It’s better than your shit anyway.”

He eyed Izuku’s sad, pitiful bento with no small amount of disgust. Izuku sniffed at him and took a large bite of his own meal, just to prove a point.

My food is perfectly healthy. It’s just… a little bland.”

“You need to put more spice in it.” Kacchan pointed out, washing down his meal with a bottle of water. “Spice makes everything tastes better. The more the better.”

Ugh, you make everything too spicy.”

“You have weak taste buds and a wimpier digestion. Anyway, are you free later this week to study for that test together?”

“Ah… I forgot about that test.”

“Seriously? I thought you’d be studying for it weeks ago. I know you’re busy with whatever your dad’s got you doing, but…”

“I’m fine,” he said quickly, too quickly. Kacchan quirked an eyebrow at him, silently telling him like I’d believe that. Izuku cleared his throat. “I am,” he insisted, more softly, with a smile. “I’m enjoying the training. I think I might try to go into a school that focuses on diplomacy and communications.”

“Well… at least you figured out something to do with yourself.” Kacchan’s tone was matter of fact, nonjudgmental and calm, but Izuku still felt something inside of him bristle at the backhanded insult. Katsuki’s gaze was distant as he looked at the horizon. “That’s good. A little surprising you figured it out so late, but at least now you won’t go into some quirkless school by default.”

Izuku huffed.

“Yeah. That’s something. I still have to pass the entrance exams though.”

“What? Like you’re nervous?”

“I am. Don’t you realize how many people will get in just because they have quirks that are better suited for it?”

“Don’t you realize how many people are stupid ? You’ll get in easy. After all, I’m your friend. I’m not friends with worthless people. Or stupid people.”

“Thanks for the pep talk.”

Even though Izuku’s tone was sarcastic, he meant the words.


He followed Chisaki Kai for weeks in the public spaces he inhabited and the dingy alleyways where he made Business Deals by terrorizing people weaker than him. Izuku was careful not to be seen or recognized.

He didn’t really gain much insight to the underground crime lord, other than a general feeling of uneasiness. Izuku didn’t really know if that was because he wasn’t used to negotiating with villains, or if he wasn’t used to talking to people outside of his immediately family (or Kacchan’s).


“How did it go?” asked father, during the evening meal. “Did you come into contact with him?”

“Not according to the plan.” Izuku pushed his peas to the side of his plate. “I have to figure out how to approach him.”

“I know you will. You are my son.”

Izuku forced a smile. Across the table, Tomura-nii watched them with an unreadable look in his eyes. It was foreign on his brother’s face, since he was usually pretty easy to read.

“Approach whom?” he asked.

“Chisaki Kai,” Izuku said simply, when their parents looked at him to explain. Tomura-nii frowned and swallowed his noodles.

“What if he doesn’t then?” he asked. “Figure out how to approach this Chisaki Kai, I mean. Is it game over for him?”

“Then it’ll tell me that he’s too young to handle the responsibility of becoming a more active member of the Family Business, and we’ll wait until he’s older. I’m sure spying on the hero hopefuls at UA will help him learn from his error.”

Izuku choked on his food. “UA?” He hadn’t even thought far enough ahead to consider applying to hero schools, too busy training and keeping his grades from slipping and following Chisaki, let alone consider the possibility of applying to UA . “I don’t—would they even consider my application since I’m quirkless?”

“You’re going to inherit One for All. You’ll have a quirk.” Father fixed him with an intense stare. “You will get accepted into UA. Certainly, you’re intelligent enough to pass the written exam, and I’m sure you’ll learn how to use One for All well enough to pass the practical exam in six months.”

“What if I don’t get in?”

Father didn’t answer his question. Izuku wasn’t sure he wanted to know the answer.

He couldn’t fail the entrance exam. It was not an option.


A letter arrived in the mail and printed in neat, careful penmanship in black ink were the words It has come to my attention that you have been watching my movements. Remember, I follow yours, too. Izuku traced the ink bled into the fine parchment paper. Smooth, and even; the person who penned it had clearly been in control of what they had been writing. Calm. Not angry.

Or maybe he was reading too much into this. It was just words, after all.

Either way, it couldn’t have been anyone else than Chisaki Kai, since Izuku was following only him. It chilled him to the bone, to know that this man knew where he lived; he thought he had been careful. But he was protected here, as well as the rest of his family— they were all powerful people, who knew how to defend themselves.

Besides, nobody would dare to stand against father. Only All Might, and Yagi wasn’t exactly what he expected when he imagined his father’s mortal foe. He couldn’t back down from these, couldn’t hesitate or show weakness to this man who was looking for it.

Izuku threw the letter into the fire and watched it burn.

He penned another letter, as a response.

I know. I wouldn’t expect anything less from someone like you.


After school, during his jog toward the beach, Izuku gradually noticed a black sedan following him in the corner of his eyes. His heart pounded, and not just from the physical exercise, and his hands were sweating as he pulled up mom’s emergency contact.

The car swerved in front of him and stopped. Izuku skidded to a halt. He was trapped, he couldn’t turn around and run the other way since there were more cars blocking his path. Which meant—

A hand clamped around his shoulder. His heart jumped into his throat and he threw a punch blindly. The intruder cursed as he yanked his shoulder away, as a scream for help bubbled in the back of his throat, but he bit back. Don’t do anything that might involve the police, they’ll look too hard into our family—

He pivoted.

Two men stood in front of him; the tall, muscular man with a mean look on his face was the one holding onto him. Even though he was his restrainer, Izuku’s mind fixated on the smaller man standing behind him.

The other man he recognized instantly, from the photos in the file folder on Chisaki Kai. His brown hair was cut neat and trim. He wore a long green coat with a furry collar, with long medical gloves covering his hands, no skin to be seen. The most disconcerting thing about this otherwise average man’s appearance wasn’t the bloodshot eyes, but the long orange beak-shaped mask that covered his mouth and nose. It reminded Izuku of those old plague masks he once saw on television, when he was watching a documentary about the early evolution of quirks.

Something about his presence… was intimidating.

“I’m sorry, I need to go somewhere.” He forced his voice to stay steady as he ducked his head and tried to make an escape, but the bodyguard (he assumed) caught his shoulder in a very, very tight grip. He looked up at him, then at Chisaki. The man was blocking the sun, casting a shadow over Izuku and across the ground. “Please let go of me.”

Were there any civilians around who were watching this? Heroes? Police officers? Maybe… even one of his father’s business partners? (Or, at least, he hoped someone was lurking in the shadows and could tell his parents what happened to him… if something happened.)

“Your name is Midoriya Izuku. Your parents are Midoriya Inko and Midoriya Hisashi. You have an older brother.” Chisaki said, voice as smooth as velvet, walking forward as the bodyguard loomed into Izuku’s personal space. It made Izuku nervous, how casually he listed the names of his family members. “You’ve been shadowing me for months, too. Who are you working for?”

“No one.” Izuku denied.

“It must be someone, otherwise a good kid like you would not follow someone like me around when you must have homework and extracurricular school activities. So, again—” his voice lowered, into something like a threat, as his presence felt malevolent instantly, “I will ask, who sent you to spy on me ?”

“No one asked me to spy on you.” Izuku repeated.

What happened next occurred too fast for Izuku to react. The bodyguard’s hand squeezed his shoulder, so tight it almost hurt, and Izuku was thrown into the sedan. He tried to scream, but a hand closed around his mouth. He tried to bite down on it, to kick his abductor, but the more he struggled, the stronger the man seemed to become.

Chisaki slid into the seat on the other side, and the bodyguard slammed the door shut and entered the passenger seat. Then, the car drove off. Izuku pressed his back against the door, tried to open it, but the door was locked and he couldn’t get out.

Swallowing the bitter taste out of his mouth, Izuku turned around to face Chisaki. The villain (someone his father wanted to be their Business Partner, but this man had just kidnapped him ) watched him with an unreadable expression on his face. He straightened his back.

His demeanor wasn’t threatening, but… his eyes…

They were so cold. So overwhelmingly threatening, unlike mom or father’s, who were the most dangerous villains alive. How could someone’s eyes promise a world of cruelty and hurt without saying words?

“Do not be afraid. I will release you from this car as soon as you tell me the information I want to know.”

And of course, if he didn’t answer truthfully, then he’d come back for him and target his family, or him, all over again.

Well. Izuku didn’t have the advantage in this anymore, clearly. The walls of this car felt like they were closing in on him, confining him to this small cage. He never liked feeling like he was trapped, but he couldn’t let that show, couldn’t let these people know he felt unsettled.

So, he imitated mom’s cold glare whenever Shigaraki had disappointed her bitterly and didn’t look away from Chisaki Kai.

“My father asked me to approach you.”

“Your father? ” Chisaki looked amused, a small curl twitching at the corner of his lips, but his eyes glinted dangerously. They were cold, so cold. “Your father has nothing to do with our world.”

Izuku licked his dry lips. “Midoriya Hisashi and Midoriya Inko are my parent’s aliases. The criminal underworld still remembers All for One and Iron Will, don’t they?”

Chisaki’s eyes widened minutely, but otherwise, his expression didn’t change. “It’s hard not to know of them, the king of the underworld and the woman who enforced his rule. I thought they died years ago, or that the heroes had captured them. Nobody knew they had children…”

“They decided to lay low while Tomura and I were growing up, but now that we’re grown, they’re resuming their old activities.”

“Such as?”

“I’m not at liberty to disclose that information. I can take a message to my father that you’re interested in their movement, and he can either tell you in person or send a messenger in his place.”

“And you, their son, is one such messenger?”

Izuku nodded. “They don’t trust anyone outside of the family to exchange critical information, and Tomura-nii is too hot-headed to have the patience to understand the delicacy of our situation.”

Take the bait, take the bait. Please think you’re more important than you actually are—

Chisaki leaned back in his seat and glanced at the bodyguard. “Pull over into that alley.”

“Yes, sir.”

Yes! Izuku looked out the window as the car rolled to a stop on the sideroad, Chisaki’s gaze prickling the back of his neck. He hoped this man just didn’t trust his driver, and wasn’t about to try to kill him… but if he was going to kill him, then wouldn’t he have just done it in the car or at the location they were going toward, where there were fewer potential witnesses?

The bodyguard stepped outside of the car, walked to Izuku’s door, and opened it slowly. His hand clamped around Izuku’s shoulder in a vice-grip, again, like Izuku would be foolish enough to try to run away. He pulled him into the alley and backed him into a corner, but Izuku shook his hand off and skittered away. He met Chisaki’s gaze.

Chisaki dismissed the bodyguard with a sharp gesture, and the man stepped back into the waiting car.

His eyes glinted strangely in the shadows and the plague mask distorted his face into something inhumane. It made Izuku feel nervous, even though he had no reason to feel nervous. His family thrived in the shadows; had walked in them since the very beginning of time. This was his territory, his birthright.

“Why were you following me?” he asked, again.

“My family knows you are interested in bringing the glory days of the yakuza back into the spotlight. We have contacts with people in high places, in government, business, universities, and such, that we believe you would find beneficial in furthering your goal.”

Izuku thought he imagined the greed that flashed across Chisaki’s face, there and gone again faster than the blink of an eye. He rolled his neck, cracking his joints, and he took a step closer to Izuku—and his eyes never left his face. At least he had his interest. They were both smart people too; Chisaki wouldn’t kill him now and risk Iron Will’s wrath upon his organization. “And what would your family get out of this arrangement?”

“My father heard about and investigated into the rumors that you were creating a serum that renders people quirkless. He discovered there was substance to those rumors, which was why he asked me to approach you. We wish to acquire it, since it’ll be useful to our goal.”

Chisaki shook his head. “Absolutely not. I have spent years developing the prototypes, and I will not hand it over to him .”

The leader of the Eight Precepts, a powerful underground criminal organization, sounded almost frightened . With the way his tone shook and his hands clenched-- it was easy to mistake it for anger, but… Izuku wouldn’t call it anger in this situation. Especially if it was All for One who was knocking at the door and demanding the serum.

Besides, he ought to be frightened. The serum he had created was a powerful product, something that could bring hero society to its knees; something that could reveal its true colors, when heroes were stripped of their quirks. In his father’s hands, it would be even greater than anything Chisaki could imagine with his own mind.

After all, there were some things impossible for mortals to understand without living a long time, and father had been alive since the very beginning of quirk existence.  

“You should consider it. Father doesn’t take it kindly when someone rejects his generosity.”

He tried to dart around Chisaki, but the man’s gaze pinned him to the wall and he couldn’t move . Izuku flinched, from surprise at how malevolent he seemed so suddenly, and stared up into his cold, cruel brown eyes.

“Or I can take his only son and demand him to give me his contacts in return for the child’s life.”

He looked serious, like he wouldn’t hesitate to do just that, and it made Izuku feel frightened; panicked, like he was being trapped into a corner. But he couldn’t afford to become panicked or trapped, and he couldn’t look frightened.

So he bluffed.

“I wouldn’t do that. You don’t even know what my quirk can do.”

Chisaki hesitated. “I was under the impression you were quirkless.”

Of course he’d read the files about my quirk, Izuku despaired—but wait, he could work this in his favor. He couldn’t fail father, he couldn’t fail now. “Officially, I am. But my father has a quirk that enables him to give and take quirks, my mother’s telekinetic quirk is unusually strong, and my brother’s quirk allows him to dissolve everything he touches. Do you really believe my father would allow a quirkless to meet with someone like you?”

They stared at each other for a long time, and Izuku felt like Chisaki was sizing him up. He didn’t look away, and it seemed to make Chisaki uncertain—unsettled, maybe. He had read making people feel unsettled was the best way to get them to listen to a weaker opponent, once, a couple months ago.

Chisaki stepped away. “Tell your father I will consider his generous offer.”

Izuku shoved his hands into his pockets and kicked off the wall. He forced himself to walk calmly, to give Chisaki his back—not to seem like he was trying to run away.

“That would be a wise decision. Let me know by week’s end what you’ve decided.”

Chisaki stayed silent.

As if he had just remembered, Izuku said, “Oh!” and turned around, placing his fingertips against his chin. He smiled. “Just a word of warning: father always gets what he wants in the end. One way or another, he will retrieve the quirkless serum.”

He walked away whistling, faking confidence into his steps and pretending he was braver than he truly was.

Or maybe more confident and reckless.

.

.

.

(“I’m sorry I’m late,” Izuku told Yagi, gasping. “Something held me up at school.”

“It’s all right, my boy. You’re responsible. Just call or text me next time, so I know. I was worried something had happened to you.”

“… thank you.”

Something about Chisaki Kai—was unsettling.)


Yagi was a hard, harsh trainer, pushing Izuku beyond his limits every day and even to his breaking point once or twice. Time ticked on as days turned into weeks into months, as the negotiation with Chisaki continued on at a slower pace than he would have liked.

But at least he was starting to become stronger. More confident in his own ability to haul rubbish away from what had once seemed to be an impassable mountain. The beach slowly cleared and the horizon emerged beyond the piles of junk.

One day, Izuku sat down next to Yagi on top of the wall, sipping out of the water bottle he had thrust into his hands. His legs were much shorter than Yagi’s, so they hung several inches above the ground.

“You’re making quite a lot of progress,” Yagi said, with a smile. “More than I was expecting. I’m impressed.”

“It’s soothing,” Izuku replied, truthfully. It seemed like he was either telling half truths or completely lying these days. “I can just lose myself in the work and worry about nothing else.”

“Have you decided on which schools you’re applying to?”

He bit his bottom lip, because even though he had discussed it with his father a couple months ago…

“I’m going to try to get into the Heroics Department at UA, but if not, I have the General Education department as my backup option. I know several excellent heroes transferred from Gen Ed to Heroics because of the Entrance Exam, so it’s a strong program and even if I don’t get in, my chances aren’t completely shot—”

Yagi chuckled, startling Izuku out of his rambling and back into the present.

“General Education is an excellent department. My closest friend is a detective, and he graduated from that course.” Yagi ruffled his hair, and Izuku blinked up at him. That gesture was so… familiar. He hadn’t been expecting it. But it wasn’t necessarily bad. “I have faith that you’ll figure out a way to get it all to work out.”

It was strange. Yagi just… encouraged him, for stupidly small things that didn’t really warrant encouragement or praise. He’d almost think that Yagi just gave it away easily, like it was a limitless commodity, but the man was far too reserved to just give it freely.

Which meant that Izuku had done something in his eyes to deserve it.

Him, a strange child, and All Might, a hero who saved millions.

Or, well, Yagi wasn’t much of a stranger anymore, was he?

“If I… if I don’t get into UA at all… like I fail the written exam and I don’t get into the Heroics department or the General Education program… will you… I mean…”

“If you’re asking me if I’ll be disappointed in you, then the answer is no.” Yagi was staring out at the sunset. “Did you know that when I was at UA, I wasn’t offered a single internship? Not for any lack of trying, of course, but they never saw my potential as a hero. So, no. I won’t feel disappointed. Know that even if you’re rejected a hundred times, it doesn’t determine your potential as a hero. Or your worth as a human being.”

Izuku swallowed against the lump in his throat. He couldn’t think of anything to say, so he said nothing. Just leaned against Yagi’s side, slightly, before he straightened his back.

“I’ll… apply to a couple other Hero Schools as well as UA.”

“An excellent strategy. It’s always a good idea to put your eggs in different baskets.”

“Huh? I don’t—which American metaphor is that, Yagi-san?”

“An old one, my boy.” Yagi laughed. “A very old one. The original proverb is ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’”

“Oh, I know that one.” Izuku chewed on his fingernail and looked at Yagi out of the corner of his eye. “How many eggs should I keep in each basket then?”

“I’m not sure. I’d say enough that you don’t lose sight of what your final goal is, but you have a plan B if plan A fails.”

“I never thought about it that way… interesting.” He tapped his chin with his finger. The piles of remaining trash wouldn’t pick itself up on its own though, so with a sigh, he put his water bottle on the wall, rolled his sleeves back up to his elbows, and got back to work.


The UA Entrance Exams loomed closer and closer as months trickled down into weeks and his workload increased. It was difficult, balancing everything from negotiating to training to schoolwork to sleeping, but he managed it. Father had told him that he was smart enough to get into UA, and Izuku wasn’t going to prove him wrong.

And… All Might spent hours training him, teaching him. He didn’t want that effort to go to waste. He was a nice person—almost too nice.

It wasn’t just the Entrance Exams that made him feel stressed out. Every time Izuku had to talk to Chisaki Kai to negotiate for the quirkless serum, there was a part of him that felt deeply unsettled by his presence. He didn’t know why or what exactly it was that made him feel that way, but there was a feeling in his gut that made him wonder if Chisaki was hiding something from them, about the serum.

But, eventually, he obtained the serum that his father wanted, and only revealed half of the contacts of the extensive network his father had collected and offered for the negotiation. Which was better than he expected.

At dinner, Izuku sat down at the table, and pushed his food around his plate. Father would be happy about obtaining the serum that rendered people quirkless, but… he didn’t think it was wise to continue negotiating with their Business Partners while he was training under Yagi. He didn’t want him to suspect that something was amiss with him, and then go digging deeper into him and uncover information about his parents.

“What’s worrying you, Izuku?” Mom asked suddenly, and Izuku jerked into wakefulness. “You haven’t eaten anything and you haven’t said a word.”

“Ah…” Izuku breathed out. Now, Tomura-nii and father were both looking at him. “I’ve completed the objective. Chisaki should deliver the quirkless serum to Kurogiri personally tomorrow evening.”

“Oh? That was quicker than I expected. Whatever did you do?” Father looked genuinely impressed, putting the chopsticks on the edge of his bowl and fixing him with his full attention. Izuku sat up straighter.

“I… threatened him.”

Tomura-nii snorted into his bowl of curry. “ You? You’re about as dangerous as a cat.”

“Cats can still leave their marks on your skin if they sink their claws in deep enough.” Mom said calmly, not looking at Tomura-nii as she buttered a piece of bread. “Well done, Izuku.”

“Yes, excellent. Perhaps I should have you negotiate our affairs more often…”

“About that.” Here was where he had to keep his tone of voice calm, unconfrontational. Like he was just commenting on something normal. “I don’t believe it is wise to negotiate with villains when I’m attending UA under the tutelage of All Might. He might suspect that you’re my parents. I doubt he would understand our true intentions.”

“Don’t get caught then.” Tomura-nii said snidely. “You’re supposed to be smart, Izu-chan, aren’t you? People say you’re a genius.”

Izuku pressed his lips together. “I don’t want All Might to use me to get to you. Even geniuses can overlook things.”

“And he won’t,” said father firmly. “We’ll come back to this after you finish your first trimester at school, but for now, you will have no contact with our Business Partners. I was planning on bringing it up with you after you’re accepted, but I want you to establish yourself in the school. You’ll be more useful to us if you’re able to obtain inside information about the future generation of the pro heroes.”

“Yes, there is that, too.” Izuku agreed.

After dinner was finished and they helped clear the plates off the table, Izuku took the stairs up to his bedroom and pulled out his homework and a barbell. The mathematics wasn’t difficult —math was always easy for him to understand— but it was hard to concentrate on solving the problems for some reason.

It was… strange.

All Might was strange, giving affection so easily. Everyone around him was careful with how they acted and how much affection they gave. Even father and mom didn’t really like being overly affectionate with him when they were out in public, let alone Tomura-nii.

And yet, Yagi had patted his head and encouraged him like it was as easy as breathing.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN: THE ENTRANCE EXAM/STARTING LINE


 EARLY in the morning on the day of the UA entrance exam, before the sun had even risen, Izuku turned his alarm clock off and sat up in bed, blindly grappling for his gym uniform and bright red shoes. Tomura-nii groaned, and Izuku froze.

“Why the fuck are you awake?” Tomura-nii grumbled, sitting up and squinting at his alarm clock. “It’s… three thirty, Izuku? It’s too early for this.”

“Then go back to sleep, nii-san.” Izuku grabbed his backpack and slung it over his shoulders. He should eat, but it felt like anything he managed to choke down would just come right back up, if he ate now. “I want to surprise him with clearing everything up.”

“Don’t know why you even bother with All Might… he’s a worthless hero, just pandering to the public…” Tomura-nii pulled the covers back over his head and turned so that his back was facing Izuku. Izuku frowned.

Even before he got to know Yagi, there had been something magnetic in All Might’s smile that made it hard for him to retain the same amount of animosity Tomura-nii felt toward All Might. Tomura-nii’s hatred of heroes was so much more personal than his own.

But then, it wasn’t like he had lived in the streets when he had been a toddler, had people and heroes turn a blind eye, like Tomura-nii had as a child, before father and mom adopted him. He didn't think he could understand his brother that intimately; didn't really want to. 

(… Izuku wasn’t even sure if he hated heroes like Tomura-nii. He hated what they stood for, hated that they oppressed quirkless people, or people who had quirks but weren’t allowed to use them in public, and those who had powerful quirks. But he didn’t think he could hate Yagi, who was All Might, the strongest hero of their generation. And that was the problem, because he should hate him. But he couldn't.)

He grabbed his phone on the way out of the house and jogged down the darkened streets in the pre-dawn light of morning. When he arrived at the beach, he pulled on a pair of heavy-duty gloves and turned his attention to the last of the debris: the rusted truck and the other large, clunky items.

Nine months ago, looking at them made him feel like obtaining All Might’s quirk would be impossible. That satisfying his father’s wish, obeying his command, to get into UA and attend would be impossible. Now, it only felt like he was a little over his head.

He could do this. He knew he could. The number of hours he poured into studying for the written portion of the entrance exam was nothing to scoff at, let alone how long he had been working to whittle away the garbage that had accumulated on the beach. His muscles burned and his thighs ached all the time, but not as badly as the first month. It got easier as he became stronger. 

Clearing the rubbish away now, while it was still physically draining, wasn’t difficult anymore. And wasn’t that strange? He’d been so skinny, so weak, there had been no strength in him; Kacchan had to protect him from bullies, threaten them away, and now…

He hoped he could stand on the same level as him, at least for a little while. Before their differences would inevitably drive them apart, onto their separate paths.

Kacchan would be the strongest hero one day. This he knew very well, it was as undeniable as the setting sun that Kacchan was meant to outshine everyone else. But he would not understand when it will come out in the future, about Izuku’s own path with his family, and how they had to reveal the true colors of hero society.

It was the Family Business, and it was all he had for him. There was no other potential road he could walk. 

He made headway on the final pieces of the rubbish, straining the muscles in his body, but taking care to stop every thirty minutes to rehydrate and catch his breath. And then he went back at it, again and again and again, until the horizon was clear and the beach was spotless and the sun was rising.

It was gone.

He had finish clearing the entire beach, with the dawn of a new day. Izuku wiped the sweat off his face with the shirt he had removed—the humidity in the middle of the night was starting to get higher and higher, even this early in the year—and he sat down on the wall. 

“Oh my goodness,” he heard Yagi exclaim, and the hero stared at the beach he had cleared with wide, astonished eyes. His hand clasped around his shoulder, and Izuku jumped. Then he looked up at him. “You cleared everything away!”

Izuku nodded. “I finally finished it.”

“You did more than that, my boy. You went above and beyond my expectations, exceeding them by miles. This is…” he paused, and then his face was so earnest. “You should be proud of yourself, Midoriya. Most people wouldn’t do something this labor intensive, or go the extra mile like this.”  

Izuku tried to glance off to the side, but Yagi ducked his head and locked his gaze. He couldn’t away; All Might had trapped him.

“… I feel like I cheated somehow. You went so far for me.” he choked out around the sour taste in the back of his throat. Tears burned in his eyes. Father wanted him to take All Might’s torch, had seen and jumped on the opportunity to bring One for All back into the family, but… Yagi had done so much for him, had been the one who had blessed him with this opportunity.

And something about this made him feel like he didn’t deserve it—because his father wanted All Might’s quirk, hated All Might, and All Might had done so much damage to his father, but… Yagi had helped him. And Izuku didn’t understand how someone could look at a weak, quirkless individual like him and see potential.

Let alone offer him a quirk. After all, father certainly never had deemed it necessary for him to have his own, even though he had begged.

“Hey kid, all of this is a product of your hard work.” Yagi’s eyebrows knitted together, with concern, and Izuku couldn’t quite bite back his sob. “It was all you.”

“I feel so blessed.

Yagi smiled and patted his head. Izuku scrubbed his face dry—or, at least, he tried to, but he couldn’t stop the tears from trickling out of his eyes.

“You know, there’s a saying about the difference between being with something out of pure luck, and something you won after you bled and cried and worked for. So, this is the power you’ve earned fair and square. It wasn’t handed to you because of a fluke of genetics and luck.”

Izuku sniffled. “Okay,” he said, quietly, because when All Might put it that way…

He wanted to make his family proud, wanted to get into UA so he could be useful, wanted to stand on the same level as Kacchan, and he…

He wanted to understand Yagi. He wanted to understand All Might, the hero Kacchan looked up to with such admiration in his eyes. He wanted to understand how such a compassionate, understanding person could destroy his father’s life without batting an eye.

But, if he wanted to understand, then he must first wait for the right timing. If there was anything negotiating with Chisaki had taught him, then it was that timing was everything.

“Now, eat this.

Izuku stared at the strand of blond hair, and wondered if it was too late to back out.


After swallowing Yagi’s hair (which was nothing short of traumatic), Izuku took the underground to UA, a route that circumvented his neighborhood so that he wouldn’t run into Kacchan on the way there. He wrapped his arm around a railing to keep his balance, popped an earbud into his ear and listened to his own voice, having recorded the main concepts he had the most difficulty understanding. He scribbled down mathematical formulas and grammar rules, desperate to cram as much as he could in his short-term memory.

“UA Station approaching in two minutes,” the automatic female voice announced over the bustle of rush hour. Izuku put his phone in his backpack and made his way to the front, trying not to jostle anyone around him. Three other kids joined him and two businessmen. One boy was eyeing him up like he was fresh meat, but Izuku didn’t bat an eye.

After all, Tomura-nii was his brother and Kacchan was his best friend. He wasn’t easily frightened by judging eyes anymore when he was always found wanting. 

The train slowed to a halt, and the doors opened. He stepped out with the other people and took the flight of stairs marked as the Central Entrance. Blinking daylight out of his eyes, Izuku checked the directions he had pulled up on his phone before he entered the underground and turned left. Walk three blocks this way… turn left again, and then right…

His feet slowed to a halt and he stood in front of the tall gates of UA High School, a school that trained the best heroes, businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, support groups—the best of the best came from this school.

And here he was, standing at the starting line, ready to take the entrance exams and try his hardest to get in.

What would they think, if they realized who his parents were? What would they do?

How would the world react if the son of the two greatest villains walked through these halls, took the exam, and maybe even get accepted? What would they say if a child of villains was trained to become a hero?

Would anyone notice?

But first, he had to get accepted into UA. Which meant he had to take the entrance exam, the written and practical portion. The practical portion was the first part, and then the written part was second, so—

“Deku?!”

Izuku winced at the familiar voice and turned around. Kacchan stood in the middle of traffic, making people walk around him. His eyes were wide, his mouth open. He looked confused. “What are you doing here?”

He had never told Kacchan… somehow, he had half-hoped that Kacchan wouldn’t notice he was taking the entrance exam, until they both stepped into UA. How stupid of him. How short-sighted. 

“I… I decided I wanted to try to take the entrance exam.”

Katsuki frowned. “You never said anything about applying to UA before. I thought you were going to apply to some other school.”

“I decided… I wanted to try. I’d always wonder if I didn’t at least try, you know?”

“Deku, you’re quirkless. There’s no way you’d be able to get into a place as prestigious as UA.”

Izuku looked at him out of the corner of his eyes. His hands tightened around his backpack straps, before he deliberately loosened them. “I thought you said I was smart enough to get in anywhere I wanted to apply to.”

“Well, yeah, obviously.” He rolled his eyes. “But c’mon, Deku, there’s no way someone like you can get in. It’s a waste of time to even try to get into the General Education course.”

“… I’m not applying to Gen Ed, Kacchan.”  

Katsuki stared at him. “Then what course are you applying for? Support? Business?”

“Heroics.”

There was a long spell of silence between them. Katsuki stared at him, not blinking, and Izuku felt frozen to the ground. His face, usually so expressive, became cold and hard as stone. He had no idea what he was thinking.

 “Kacchan, please say something…” Shout, scream, anything. Just stop looking at me like that.

“What is there to say?”

One second more passed. Then two and three. Guilt flooded his insides like gasoline, and he needed no fire to set it ablaze. The toxicity was so great that it slowly choked him, drove the oxygen out of his lungs, and made him feel like he was drowning on it.

And Kacchan… his expression was so shuttered, so unreadable, and it frightened him. Izuku reached out, tried to tug on his sleeve—but Kacchan stepped to the side, too deliberately to be accidental.

“I have to get to the written exam. Good luck, Deku.”

And he left him there, in the middle of the exam, questioning if everything was worth it. Izuku wanted to cry, wanted to chase after Katsuki and plea with him for his forgiveness, try to explain that it barely felt real—but how could he explain everything to Kacchan? How could he explain why he completely switched his goal from just surviving to becoming a hero without giving everything away?

He resented these secrets on his chest that forced him to keep silent. If father had given him a quirk, he wouldn’t be in this situation. If All Might hadn’t trusted him with his legacy, he wouldn’t have to keep his secrets. If his father didn’t insist he needed him to be a spy, he wouldn’t lose Kacchan like he was now.

If he had just told Kacchan…

“Are you alright?” A pretty girl tapped him on his shoulder, concern on her face. “You’ve been standing here for a while; you look upset.”

“I—” Izuku shook his head. Smile, smile to trick the fear inside of you. So he smiled wide, even though it felt faked. “I’m so sorry, I completely—well, everything is so overwhelming, you know? I didn’t think I’d be able to stand here today.”

The girl smiled too. “Yeah, it is! I’m so nervous.”

“Me too.”

“Good luck. I’ll you see later.” She waved and went off toward the doors. Izuku took a deep breath and nodded.

Right.

He had a reason to be here.

Kacchan will have to come later. He could apologize, beg him to forgive him later, try to explain—figure out what he could explain, after they both finish the entrance exam and have time to process everything.

The future awaits. 

He couldn't let this opportunity slip through his fingers when he had worked so hard to obtain it, when so many expectations were riding on his shoulders. He didn't want to disappoint them.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT: BRIDGES BURNED/FAMILIAR FACE


AFTER the exam was completed and everyone was released, Izuku made his way back home, collapsed on top of the bed after kicking his shoes off, and slept for what felt like an eternity.

He woke up, much later, when Tomura-nii pushed him off the bed.  

“Ow! What was that for?” He rubbed his tailbone as he pushed himself up into a sitting position. Tomura-nii perched on the edge of his bed, looking completely unapologetic as he picked dirt out of his fingernails. Izuku watched small flecks of grime fall onto his quilt, piece by tiny piece, dirtying it.

If Tomura-nii didn’t have his specialized gloves on, he would have thought that he was using his quirk to get rid of the mess. But he didn’t have them on, so he clearly just had that much dirt underneath his nails for some reason.

“You wouldn’t wake up. I had to take drastic measures.”

“You pushed me off the bed.”

“Exactly. Drastic measures.”

Tomura-nii smirked at him. Izuku shook his head and stood up; whenever he got this way, there was no way to get him to stop being mean to him. Taking a deep breath to calm down his racing heart, he asked, “Why did you wake me up anyway? Surely it could have waited until I was, you know, actually awake.

Now that he was awake and becoming aware, there was something hot inside of his body that raced, made him feel more and more alert—more jittery. Like it was barely settling. And his legs ached. And his arm. Everything ached, but especially the area that he used One for All so impulsively—

All Might had never told him that One for All would hurt like that . That the backlash would be so great that it would injure him like that . It would have been nice if he’d given some warning, a “Young Midoriya, avoid using this power as much as you can since the recoil might break your bones.”

Maybe he would have thought twice about accepting his power. Maybe not. Yagi had told him that they were training his body to be able to house One for All. He just never told him about what could come after he received his power.

It was too late to turn back now, but he wished All Might had warned him about something like this happening.

The power racing in his veins.... If this was what it was like having a quirk, then it really wasn’t hard to understand why Kacchan acted like he was superior to everyone, like everyone else were ants. It felt like One for All was resting just beneath the surface, ready to bubble over at a moment’s notice if he didn’t keep a tight lid on this power.

What would happen if it started to boil?

“It’s dinnertime. Mother wants us to eat together, to celebrate your admittance into UA.”

“I haven’t even gotten my scores yet.” And I failed the entrance exam, the practical portion. I didn’t get even one point.

As soon as those giant robots had appeared, it had been madness and chaos. He hadn’t stood a chance—as soon as he had seen that girl trapped under that slab of rock, with that robot about to crush her…

He couldn’t just leave her there. So, his body had moved before he could think. Again.

“You’re smart, Izu-chan, and you have All Might’s quirk. I’m sure the alternative is impossible.” Tomura-nii stood and stretched, throwing his arms behind his head and cracking his back. “Father doesn’t tolerate failure, after all.”  

“No, he doesn’t.”

That was the problem: he didn’t even get one point on the practical exam. It didn’t matter how well he scored on the written portion of the exam; if he didn’t score well enough on the practical, then there was no hope for him to even get accepted into UA.

Tomura-nii’s eyes narrowed. “You’re acting strangely. Don’t tell me you failed one of the exams.”

Izuku flinched and glanced down at the ground. He didn’t look away; couldn’t. He felt too ashamed, at his colossal failure of an exam. The family would be so disappointed in his lack of ability. If he had just thought a little faster, a little harder...

The only thing he was good for was his intelligence, everyone said so. He didn’t have any special abilities or talents, but it had failed him when he had needed it the most.

“You did, ” Tomura-nii sounded delighted. “You fucked up the entrance exam somehow. Did you fail the written exam? No, you wouldn’t have; you’re far too smart for that… that must mean you failed the practical. How come? Did you freeze? Did they look at you and realize you’re too weak to be in the hero course? Father’s going to be pissed, Deku.”

“Stop being mean, nii-san.” Izuku shoved Tomura away from him and walked out of the room. He followed him, practically stepping on his heels. “I made a miscalculation. That’s all.”

You made a miscalculation? You’re father’s pride and joy. His apprentice. How could you make a miscalculation? You’re practically as smart as he is—”

“Tomura-nii, shut up.” Izuku looked up at him. “Please. I didn’t fail the exam, I just didn’t get the perfect score like I wanted.”

I didn’t get any score.

Tomura-nii raised an eyebrow. “You’re telling me what to do? I think you’re forgetting the power structure in our family, little brother.

“You’re being mean.” Izuku said calmly. “And it’s unnecessary.”

Tomura-nii looked like he was ready to reach out to him and pull him back, maybe to hurt him or yell at him, but mom walked in and smiled at them, bright as the sun, so genuinely . The wrinkles around her eyes crinkled, spiderwebs appearing from her smile.

“Ah boys, are you hungry? I have hot and ready katsudon on the table, for our newest UA student. I’m so proud of you, Izuku!” She walked over, wrapped her arm across his shoulders, and steered him toward the kitchen, with Tomura-nii trailing behind them. Izuku swallowed back the lump in his throat and the guilt.

“Yeah… I know I did well, but I’m still nervous about the results of the exam, you know? I won’t know until I get it in writing…”

“You get that trait from me, I tend to overanalyze everything. Your father drives me mad when he counts his chickens before they’re hatched, but that’s why we balance each other out so well. But I have no doubt in your abilities, my dear. If Katsuki gets in, you’ll certainly get in as well.”

And there was Kacchan…

He needed to talk to him, sooner rather than later.


After dinner, father put his hand on Izuku’s shoulder and steered him into his office. As he hooked up the oxygen mask, he asked, “How did your exam go?”

“It went well,” Izuku lied. “Especially the written portion of the exam.”

“My boy, we both know that I know when someone lies to me. I’ll let it slide this once if you tell me how it truly went.”

Right.

It was impossible to hide the truth from father, after all. Izuku looked to the side, down at the papers thrown all over the desk. Diagrams for his newest noumus were thrown all over the desk, the potentialities for the quirk combinations written in the paper.

“I think I did well on the written exam,” he repeated, pressing his hand against his elbow. The elbow that was damaged beyond repair hours earlier. “However, I didn’t… I didn’t get one point for the practical portion. Everyone had been leagues ahead of me, and as soon as those giant robots came in and I saw that girl—I don’t know. I just… panicked. I didn’t even realize the recoil would be so bad…”

“Slow down, Izuku. I don’t understand what you’re telling me; explain what happened from the beginning.”  

For a moment, a split-second really, Izuku hesitated. This was his father, who never had time for him unless there was a problem—but he didn’t seem to be angry. Or, at least, all he was doing was watching him.

Izuku sat down on the edge of the chair, ready to take off at a moment’s notice if he wanted to. Even though he knew nothing would happen to him, he still hated it when he had to face father’s disappointment.

“I inherited All Might’s quirk after I finished cleaning the rest of the stuff on the beach this morning, before the exam started. When I finished the written exam, I continued on to the practical part. And… I didn’t know how to use his quirk. All those kids had been using their quirks for years, but I hadn’t even used my own once. So, I… may have failed the practical portion.”

“Izuku,” his father said, sounding annoyed. “I didn’t raise you to find excuses for your own shortcomings. I know you’re smart enough to devise a way to pass that exam; you should have passed that exam. Every calculation I made…”

“I know! I know!” Izuku curled into himself, folding his arms around his legs. He couldn’t look at him in his eyes, so he fixed his gaze on the table. “I know… I’m sorry,” he said, more softly. “These giant robots came out of nowhere two minutes before the time was called and started wrecking everything. As soon as I saw that girl on the ground, stuck… I couldn’t think about anything else but trying to save her.”

His father sat back in his chair and pressed his fingertips together. He always did that when he was thinking about something. “Oh? You tried to save a child?”

“Well, yes. I just couldn’t leave her there. She could have died!”

“Hmm…”

Izuku paused and stared at his father. “I’m missing something. You’re pleased. You wouldn’t be pleased if I truly failed.”

“I’m still unhappy that you failed so badly, and we will talk to your mother about your lack of foresight. We’ll have to train you better to think on the spot. But I doubt all hope is lost as U.A. does exemplify the principles of heroism, which you demonstrated. They might decide to allow you into the Hero course simply because of the heroic nature of your actions.”

That was… relieving.

Father was rarely ever wrong about these things, simply because he had seen so much and lived so long. If he said that it was probable that something like this would happen, then it must mean that was almost certain to happen.

At least not all hope was lost. He might be able to avoid the worst of their wrath if he was accepted at U.A., even if it was only into the General Education course. Surely that would be enough?

“There’s something else you’re hiding from me. Your body language is tense. What happened?”

Nothing got past his father.

“When I tried to use All for One, the recoil from it was so great it shattered the bones in my arm and legs. I— I wasn’t expecting for it to be that bad. All Might never said anything about it.”

“You’re not hurt now, are you?” Father sounded alarmed, hands resting on the chair as he moved as if to get up, but Izuku waved him down.

“I’m fine now! Recovery Girl healed me. I’m just upset All Might never warned me that something like this might happen, to be honest.”

“No, he wouldn’t tell you. He was desperate to find a successor to pass that quirk down onto. Heroes never have altruistic intentions; it’s a business, after all. Their idealism is falsely labeled so that they get enough coverage from the press to pay the bills their high-luxury lifestyle affords them.”

“Yeah…” There wasn’t anything else for Izuku to say; these were all facts they knew well. It was why he was so determined to show the true colors of heroism to the world.

He wanted to understand why heroes called his family villains when they weren’t. They had just been portrayed in the wrong light by history, and now they were cruel and vindictive monsters to the eyes of the watching world.

His father hummed, bringing Izuku’s attention back onto him. “What’s bothering you?”

Izuku wetted his lips. “I just… it really hurt.” He knew that father would mistake his wording for physical pain and not emotional; he wouldn’t expect for him to burgeon a small respect for All Might or how respective he had been to Yagi’s frankness, but…

But.

“I know,” he said, softly, sympathetically. He sat quietly for a moment. “I felt the same way when my brother stole the quirk I gave to him. That’s why I’m glad you received it. It feels like the world has come to a full cycle back to the very beginning, to my roots, and all our suffering has started to turn around for us.”

He smiled—or, at least, smiled as much as could when most of his face was gone. “Everything comes down to you, Izuku. The power is in your hands now, to do with it as you please.”

Practically vibrating in his seat, Izuku sat ramrod straight and nodded earnestly. “All I want to do is help our family. I want history to remember us.” I want to be something more than what I’m portrayed as. As we are portrayed.

Father chuckled. “History shall indeed remember us.”

For a moment, they sat there in silence, before Izuku stood up and bowed on his way out. Father cleared his throat, and he paused.

“Also, Izuku: if you hadn’t had a chance to display your heroic potential, our discussion would sing a different tune right now.”

Izuku’s hand tightened around the doorframe. The wood cracked underneath the strength of his grip, something that wouldn’t have happened ten months ago. “Yes, father.”


“This is Bakugou. Say whatever the fuck you want, and I’ll get back to you eventually.”

At the sound of Kacchan’s familiar voicemail greeting, Izuku let out a frustrated sigh and hung up. Kacchan hadn’t answered him in days, ever since the Entrance Exam, and he didn’t know how to reach him without showing up at his door.

He knew Kacchan’s mom would let him in —gladly—but he didn’t want to overstep and push Kacchan’s boundaries with this radio silence. It wasn’t like him to just cut him out entirely; usually, he would have confronted him by now.

On top of that, All Might hadn’t answered any of his text messages—which, yes, he knew he was a busy hero, the number one hero, and he had a lot of people wanting his time, but Izuku had grown used to Yagi being available and…

Well.

He hoped Yagi wasn’t too disappointment in his colossal failure. He shouldn’t have gotten his hope up, that this quirkless kid could get into UA without a day’s training. Yes, he had built his own strength and his mind was quick, but that paled in comparison of those who had been gifted with natural power…

Neither of them should have hoped.

He was mad at him too, for not warning him about the quirk.

“What’s up with the long face?”

How did she…

But of course she’d know something was bothering him; this was his mom. And she was the most observant person he knew.

Izuku watched her deftly move pots and pans with her hands while using her quirk to pull ingredients into her hand for tonight’s dinner. It still surprised him sometimes how she was father’s ferocious right-hand, rumored to be more fear-invoking than father. Or maybe it wasn’t all that surprising.

“Kacchan hasn’t responded to me. I’ve been trying to get ahold of him since the Entrance Exam, but he’s been ignoring my calls.”

“Hmm.” Mom shook some spice over the dish. “Try meeting with him face to face, Izuku. Maybe he’s just upset that you forgot to tell him you were taking the Entrance Exam.”

Maybe.

He doubted it was just that though. Kacchan would have been screaming at him if it was just that, would have confronted him long before now, but he hadn’t.

“I’ll think about it,” he said noncommittally, and then he sat still and didn’t speak again for the rest of the meal. After they had been dismissed, Izuku went up to the bedroom, laid on top of his bed, and scrolled through his long strain of text messages that he had sent to Kacchan.

It was annoying—always had been annoying—how Kacchan always turned the read receipt off, so he never knew if he actually opened the message, or if he had closed it. He wished he knew, but he just… didn’t.

Tomorrow morning then.

He will talk to Kacchan, one way or another.


Early the next morning, Izuku jogged to Kacchan’s house that was located just down the street and knocked on the front door, knowing that its occupants would be wide awake by now. Even though he was confident in that knowledge, he still poked his fingers together nervously.

Sure enough, Bakugou-san opened the door within thirty seconds. Her eyes widened when she saw him standing on her front porch, both of them knowing that he wasn’t a morning person at all in general.

“Good morning, Izuku. It’s nice to see you; my brat of a son refuses to say anything, we were hoping you might know.” She said, opening the door wider and letting him in. Automatically, he took his shoes off and pulled on the house slippers they stored.

“I have a pretty good idea,” he admitted with a grimace. “He’s been ignoring me ever since the entrance exam.” That we took.

“Head on upstairs then. Hopefully, you’ll have better luck than me at getting him to talk.”

“I’ll try my best.” He forced himself to smile, and then he bowed at her in thanks before he ran up the stairs. When he reached Kacchan’s door, he hesitated, unsure of Kacchan’s mood, before he knocked. He’d done something that had made him upset enough to ignore him this long, but he didn’t understand what he’d done that was so wrong.

“Stop pissing me off , old hag! Everything’s fine.” Kacchan shouted from inside the room, but there were no exploding sounds, so Izuku figured that he was relatively safe. He tried turning the doorknob, but it was locked.

“It’s me, Kacchan.”

For a moment, there was silence from his best friend. He waited, shifting nervously on his feet, wishing that Kacchan would answer him.

The door opened. “You don’t know when to give up, do you?” His voice was bitterer than Izuku expected, angrier, without a trace of the fondness that usually took the bite off the edge. Kacchan scowled at him, a hard set to his face. His eyes were unreadable.

“…No?” Izuku said, not knowing if that was the right answer or not. “You haven’t been answering any of my calls or texts. I’ve been worried.”

Kacchan snorted. He brushed past him, knocking his shoulder against Izuku’s hard enough to make him stumble to the side. After he caught his balance, he followed him to the backyard, where Kacchan had stopped in the middle of it.

“So,” he said quietly, “since when did you want to be a hero?”

That tone of voice—something about it was off, even though Izuku couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was yet. Instead of answering the question, he tilted his head and considered how to answer it. Kacchan didn’t meet his eyes; he seemed to be avoiding looking at him, in fact. He didn’t know why.

“I… recently. My parents—”

Kacchan rolled his eyes. “No, since when did you want to become a hero, Deku ? You never said a word to me about it earlier.” Something about the way he said his name was different, but Izuku didn’t know how to explain it. It reminded him of the way Tomura-nii sometimes mocked it a little. Except sharper, meaner; like he wanted it to hurt him.

“What’s going on, Kacchan? Why are you being mean to me again?”

“For fuck’s sake, answer the damn question, Izuku.”

Now his tone was familiar, with that bite of impatience and seething anger lurking underneath the surface. But it was strange how Izuku was the one on the receiving end of it, and not just everything in general.

“Someone told me I could be a hero and I—I wanted to try.”

Kacchan stared at him. “You’re quirkless. There’s no way you can become a hero. You’ll die before the end of high school.”

Izuku frowned. “You’re underestimating me.”

“No, I’m fucking not, Deku!” Katsuki stalked toward him, one step, two steps. He clamped his hands over his shoulders, too tightly not to hurt. “It’s dangerous even for a normal person, let alone a quirkless. What are you thinking? I thought you’d go into some academic high school or something.” He sneered the term quirkless like it was a disease. Tears prickled in Izuku’s eyes, but he didn’t try to fight Katsuki off.

“You always said I’d go to the quirkless high schools though.” He argued, not even sure how to explain how he inherited All Might’s quirk. Toshinori-san believed he could do it, so he had decided to take a chance. But Kacchan couldn’t know about his connection to All Might, just like he couldn’t know his family were villains yet. So he didn’t know how to explain everything.

“Stop treating me like I don’t have eyes and can’t see when you’re lying to my face, Deku!”

“I’m not lying !”

“You are. You’re lying to me right now.”

Kacchan’s hand was beginning to feel too hot; like it was burning through his clothes. He could smell it. He tried to shrug him off, but he only clamped down tighter on him and jutted his chin out, crowding him up against the wall, pushing into his personal space. Izuku tried to push him away, but he wouldn’t budge.

“Fine,” Izuku spat out, frustration making his temper start to frizzle. “I’m clearly lying. I just decided to apply to the hero course to see if I can get in, Kacchan!”

“Are you insane? There’s no way someone like you can get accepted at UA, let alone in the Heroics course .

“No, I’m not insane. You’re just doubting me.”

Never mind Izuku had doubted himself all of this time. The fact that Kacchan, who was supposed to be his best friend, would just say something like this—it was cruel. It wasn’t like Izuku was even going to get accepted at UA for that matter, even he knew he didn’t stand a chance (unless his father had been right). He just…

Kacchan was amazing, but he could be so hurtful.

Crimson eyes hardened and then he pushed Izuku away, hard enough that he stumbled and fell against the ground. He wasn’t able to catch himself, so his hand hurt.

“Don’t come back, Deku. I don’t want to associate with cheats.”

“I never cheated!” Izuku yelled at his retreating back as he slammed the door shut behind him.

He didn’t understand Kacchan; he didn’t know why he was so upset about this. He understood that he might be worried about him, about how he was quirkless before; he understood how he might be confused because he never showed interest in heroism before. But he didn’t understand why he’d hurt him about it.

He sat, stunned, for a minute as he tried to wrap his mind around Kacchan’s rejection and how he had talked to him like he was someone else , like he was the enemy, before he stood up. His heart was pounding in his chest and tears clung to his eyes as he bit into his lip to keep them from falling.

He sped away, keeping his head down.

Chapter Text

 CHAPTER NINE: LOGICAL RUSES/THE GIFT


 ABOUT one week after Kacchan’s harsh denial when Izuku tried to talk to him and complete radio silence from All Might, he received a letter from U.A.

He sat there, on his bed, staring at the fine embroidery on the envelop, and bit into his lip. Tomura-nii wasn’t in the house today—instead, he was out with father at the bar they had picked for the base where they would create plans—so he wasn’t here to bother him while he worked up the courage to open the envelope.

Either way, he would know if it had been worth it. All those months of studying, hard labor, and potentially even losing Kacchan due to his silence. He just… had to open the letter.

So, he did.

He slid his finger underneath the envelope, and hoped that it was something he could use, something that wouldn’t disappoint his father, something that came out of all those hours he spent studying. Otherwise, the alternative…

He didn’t want to go to a quirkless school. Was he even able to go to one, now that he had inherited All Might’s quirk? Or would Yagi want to take it back from him?

He didn’t know.

It was terrifying.

His heart was pounding so hard he felt light-headed. Doubt made him hesitate; doubt at his existence; doubt if the journey was worth it. Worry twisted around his heart like the roots of a parasitic vine. But, seeds of hope wormed into the ground, and even though the darkness was large and terrifying, hope endured like a pebble that was meant to last until the end of time. It was a thing with feathers, perched inside his soul and singing it’s sweet song.

With bated breath and trembling fingers, he unfolded the fine, thick paper.

Dear Midoriya Izuku,

Congratulations! We are pleased to offer you admittance into the U.A. Heroics Course for the class of xxxx. Your hard work and determination has paid off…

That was all he read before tears filled in his eyes and the tension drained out of his body. He’d done it. He’d made it to the starting line. He could make his parents proud, finally offer them something with his lack of abilities. He could be useful in the way Tomura-nii accused him of not being. He could be something more than he was—

Kacchan would be there too.

They might even be in the same class again.

No, he shouldn’t dare to hope that something like that might happen. He didn’t want to get so attached to the idea, but then it turned out that they weren’t in the same classroom. He didn’t want to be disappointed. Because he was happy he got in, because this was infinitely better than going to a quirkless school. Even though he was in the bed of the vipers, there was so much opportunity to help his parents further their agenda.

All he had to do was make it out alive without being bitten. 

Someone knocked on the door, and it surely wasn’t Tomura-nii because he would have just barged right on in without regard, and then they opened it. Mom looked around the corner of the door and smiled at him.

“Could you help me set the table, Izuku?” Then her eyes fell on the letter in his hand and narrowed. Izuku swallowed and beamed back at her, stretching his smile to be as wide as he could make it. He knew they would be proud.

Or, at least, he knew mom would be.

“I got accepted at UA!”

Her eyes widened and she entered the room, crossing it quickly to sit down next to him. She took the letter from his hands and looked it over. “You did? Oh, that’s amazing, Izuku! I’m so proud of you. Your father is going to be happy; we’ll finally have someone on the inside. If we finally understand what the enemy is teaching the future generation, we’ll be able to defeat them.”

“I know,” Izuku said. “Look, it says here that I’m going to start in two weeks.”

“Oh! We’re going to have to buy supplies. A uniform. More sketchbooks, you’ll have to remember to take detailed notes on the other quirks of the students.”

“That’s not going to be hard,” he teased, because analyzing quirks was something he enjoyed doing. “I hope I don’t mess it up… I’m scared I’ll say something and it’ll tip someone off.”

“Honey, you won’t say anything that will jeopardize the Family Business. You’re far conscientious to make a mistake of that magnitude.”

Izuku bit his lip and didn’t respond. As reassuring as having his mom’s faith in his abilities to not misstep somehow, it was still so much responsibility riding on his shoulders. Father would base future plans off of the information he gives to him; if anyone suspected him, they would treat him with suspicion. With contempt. They might even throw him into jail, or execute him for daring to try to change things…

“Izuku, you need to stop worrying. Everything will be fine.” Mom pulled him into a hug, and he returned it automatically, sinking into her embrace and ducking his head into her shoulder.

Right.

He just needed to believe that.

After dinner, Izuku wandered up to father’s office to give him leftovers, since he hadn’t joined them. Which he understood, of course—his father was a busy man, and he probably had something important come up last minute. When he knocked, father called out, softly, “Come inside,” so Izuku pushed the door open and poked his head inside.

“You missed dinner, so mom sent me up with leftovers.”

Father looked up and smiled at him, and it made his stern features look a little less intimidating and a little more soft. “Ah, Izuku. Did your letter come in yet?”

Izuku nodded. “I got accepted into the Heroics Course.”

“Excellent!” His father looked incredibly pleased, and Izuku sat down on the chair when he wasn’t instantly dismissed. “This is excellent for the Family Business, we’ll finally have information from the horse’s mouth…”

His praise left Izuku feeling disquieted. Because, yes, he was glad that his father was proud of him, and he was proud to finally be able to do something useful for once in his life, for the Family Business, so that he wouldn’t be quite so much a burden on his family. He had a quirk now, too, All Might’s quirk. That was useful.

He just wished his father would acknowledge his own efforts, too. It seemed like he was only ever proud of him when he did something that benefited the Family Business—which was understandable, of course, since so much of their future was riding on it and Izuku wanted to contribute—but it still made Izuku wish he would acknowledge him, just once, like how the Bakugous acknowledged Kacchan’s talent and ability.

Swallowing, Izuku leaned over and looked down at the papers strewn across the desk as father ate the food he brought up. Sketch after sketch of noumus greeted Izuku’s eyes, and he frowned.

“I can’t quite balance the quirk factors on this one specifically,” his father said conversationally. “I’m trying to give this one the ability to fly, as well as give it incredible strength, and the ability to understand commands.”

“Are you trying to make it intelligent?”

“Yes.”

Izuku hummed underneath his breath and looked at the sketches with a keener eye. Three completely different types of quirks… no wonder father was having such trouble balancing the equations. Noumu were difficult to create, and costly, so the blueprint had to be perfect so that genetics lined up correctly…

“What is its base quirk?”

“The wings.”

“Hmm…” Izuku was going to suggest adding a basic intelligence boosting quirk if it’s base quirk was super strength, or the other way around, and adding the wing quirk last, so that certainly made it more difficult. “Do you want it to be able to talk?”

“If it could talk, it wouldn’t have the anatomical structure to take advantage of it. It should have enough intelligence so that it’ll recognize when its master is in danger, and will act to protect him.”

“Okay, so, in that case—would training it to protect its master be sufficient? And then just balance the wing quirk and the strength quirk against each other.”

“No, the creature has to be able to sense when its master is in danger. That’s the difficulty in this.”

Ah,” Izuku said, understanding now what his father was getting at. “So, you want to add a quirk that’s similar to a sixth sense? Except it’s for sensing danger… so maybe it would be closer to an amplified intuition…”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to create.”

“Then how about you try it this way… the noumu would have to be trained to one master, but somehow connect that master to a quirk that increases intuition, so that it can sense when its master is in danger. Then apply the super strength around it, like a sandwich.”

“Interesting. However, what if this intuition quirk fails and it doesn’t sense the danger its master is in?”

“Huh… maybe a foresight quirk then, but limited directly to its master and potential endangerment? You can narrow the range of time too, I suppose…”


Two weeks after he got his letter, Katsuki walked into his classroom, threw his bookbag (carefully) on the floor next to his assigned seat, and ignored Shitty Glasses as he raved at him about how he needed to put his feet down on the ground and sit all proper and stiff like him.

Spacing out, he looked over Shitty Glasses’ shoulder, who really was starting to become irritating with just how grating his goddamn voice was, and—

What the fuck? Why is Deku here?

Katsuki sat very, very still as Deku slid into the seat behind him, quiet as a mouse and avoiding his gaze like he was some weak-ass coward, as if he had a guilty conscience which he very well should after he took that exam quirkless and somehow got accepted into UA’s hero course?

What the actual fuck.

Some bouncy girl walked up to Deku and started talking to him, about how he saved her from the robots, and how she was glad that he was accepted at UA as well. Deku turned toward her, like how some flowers turned toward the sun, and practically brightened up, talking to her like they were old friends.

What the fuck did Katsuki know? Maybe they were. He clearly didn’t know Deku as well as he thought he had, since he never told him he wanted to be a hero. For all he knew, Deku could have a secret double-life where he had friends and laughed about how much he had fooled Kacchan every day, for his entire life.

Had Deku looked down on him this entire time? Just lied to him, make him think that they were friends or some shit like that, and then turn around and stab him in the back like he was some kind of traitor. Only villains did shit like that, lie to and betray their friends.  Had he laughed as he made himself seem to be more helpless than he really was?

Sparks lit underneath his skin, crackling hot and painful. He closed his fist around them, to hide his lack of control. His temper simmered like water boiling in a kettle, but he slammed a lid on it as the teacher walked into the classroom.

Or, well, more like rolled his way into the classroom like he was some kind of caterpillar.

“It took you all eight seconds to settle into your chairs. Time is a precious resource.”

The man, who was their teacher apparently, stood up and stepped out of the mustard-yellow sleeping back. He was dressed in all black, with dark circles under his eyes like he hadn’t slept in a week. But the cat-like grace in the way he walked told Katsuki he wasn’t someone to underestimate.

“I’m your homeroom teacher, Aizawa Shouta. Change into your gym clothes and head to the front grounds. Today, we’re conducting a test of your quirks.” 

 ***

After they changed with little fanfare, Katsuki followed Deku to the front grounds.

Did Deku even have a quirk? Surely, he couldn’t fake his life to that detail; he hated the idea of applying to a quirkless school. Hated it so much that he almost feared it. That feeling couldn’t be a lie, surely? His quirklessness couldn’t have been a fabrication; nobody sane would fake that.

He could see Deku somehow making some kind of machinery that could help him destroy the robots, but would that even be accepted on the entrance exam? It was to test the endurance and suitability of quirks. Heroics wasn’t easy.

As they all circled around Aizawa, their teacher spoke:

“U.A. is known for its freestyle educational system. This applies to teachers as well.”

It didn’t look like anybody understood the meaning of Aizawa’s words, not even Deku. Teachers could teach in whatever way they wanted. There was no standard curriculum.

“Softball throwing, the standing long-jump, the 50-meter dash, grip strength, and so on. You did all of these in middle school, right? In your standard no-quirks-allowed gym tests. Unfortunately, this country irrationally insists on prohibiting quirks when calculating the averages of these records.

“Bakugou, how far could you throw in middle school?”

“Sixty-seven meters,” Katsuki answered.

“Good. Now try it with your quirk. Give it all you’ve got.”

Katsuki grinned as he stepped into the circle and took the softball Aizawa offered to him. All he’d have to do was add a bit of a boom to it at the right point, just as it leaves his hand, and…

“DIE!!!!” he screamed as he launched the ball with the largest explosion he could muster.

“It’s important for us to know your limits. That’s the first rational step to figure out what kind of heroes you will become.”

Seven-hundred and five meters.

“Seriously?” someone gasped. “That’s awesome!”

“So, we can use our quirks for real? Man, the hero course is great!”

“Awesome, you say?” Shivers wracked his spine at the way Aizawa suddenly grinned, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. They were his prey. “You’re hoping to become heroes in three years, and you think it’ll be all fun and games? Right.”

He looked at them with a demonic gleam in his eyes.

“Whoever has the lowest score will be deemed as having no potential and will subsequently be expelled.”

After Aizawa’s threat, the relaxed air dissipated and tension descended upon everyone, so thick that Katsuki could practically see it. Competitiveness switched with the general comradery as everyone looked at each other like they were the enemy.

Not that anyone was on par with Katsuki.

Cracking his knuckles, he started on the first task, determined to leave everyone behind in the dust with the versatility of his quirk. They wouldn’t even stand close.

If adrenaline and the fear of failure made him more vigilant and sharper with his words, nobody would dare to point it out to him. Nobody except Deku, at least, knew the difference, and Deku was too busy not looking at him to say something.

Eventually, it was Deku’s turn to do the ball toss. Something about the way his eyes looked—desperate, almost scared, made Katsuki feel viciously smug. He might be quirkless, and he might have figured out a way to cheat his way through the entrance exam, but clearly he wasn’t strong enough to handle UA, and he’d be expelled.

(There was a small part of him that felt bad for his only friend, the empathetic side that Deku had nurtured over the years, but he ignored it.)

Deku made this huge, winding up gesture with his arm, like that would help him overcome his quirklessness, and then he threw it—and the ball landed forty-three meters away. Katsuki frowned as Aizawa walked up to him, presumably to tell him to leave the school.

What the fuck, how could he convince himself to believe he could make it in the heroics course with… everything that he is? He thought Izuku was more realistic than that; he’d always been the more pragmatic between the two of them.

But as Aizawa walked away, Katsuki looked at Deku, really looked at the way his shoulders were slumped, but the way his eyes were bright like he was calculating something, and he knew that whatever had driven Deku to come here, that thing was still motivating his actions. Because Deku was smart, loathe as he was to admit it, even smarter than Katsuki. And he hadn’t given up. If he could figure out a way to get past the entrance exam, then surely there was something…

“You have no potential,” Aizawa said, tilting his head back and dropping eyedrops into his irises, dismissing Deku completely.

“Not yet,” Deku said, abruptly, and his eyes were so bright, so radiating, that they looked like they were on fire. “Not yet! I’ll give it my all… now!”

Green lightning danced around Deku’s hand, pinpointed around his fingers directly. As he threw the ball, something snapped; dust was kicked around him as the ball sailed into the stratosphere.

He lied.

“Sensei,” Deku said with triumph gleaming in his eyes and a shaky smile on his lips. He closed his hand, ugly purple and blue bruising already covering the finger were the power was concentrated. “I can still move!”

There’s no way a quirk could have manifested so late.

Aizawa barred his teeth in a frankly terrifying grin.

He lied this entire time.

Katsuki’s reality shattered.


“Izuku, come to the back of the house when you put your things away and change.” Father called, about half an hour after Izuku got home from his first day of high school. An unusual occurrence if there ever was any, since father would usually ask for Tomura-nii instead.

He wasn’t about to make him wait.

In record time, the vest and shoes came off and his backpack was lovingly dropped onto the top of his bed. He skidded through the house, since mom wasn’t here to scold him for running, and he stumbled to a halt in the back of house. The door that led to the basement was wide open, inviting Izuku to go in, which was strange since not even Tomura-nii was allowed to go into the basement.

“Down here, Izuku.” Father called up, from inside the basement, and Izuku swallowed. Well, he’d just go in now and see what happened…

Clutching the railing, he took the steps down. There was a light at the bottom of the stairs, but his heart was pounding erratically and he felt dizzy from holding his breath so long. But he had permission to come down here, so he doubted father would be too terribly upset with him for entering the basement.

“Father?”

“Yes, come. I finally finished your gift, for getting into UA.”

Izuku’s heart raced. He was nearing the end of the staircase, and he looked up at his father. “Really? What did you get for me?”

“I made a companion for you. It was actually your ingenuity that helped me figure out how to get the quirk factors to merge without canceling another out.”

“Oh.” Izuku’s breathing stuttered to a halt as he stared up at the noumu; tall and yellow, with wings and beady eyes looking down at him. He’d never been this close to a noumu before. Father hadn’t let him get too close, and he’d never really felt the curiosity to approach them anyway. Mostly because, whenever he saw them from a distance, they looked like they were in pain.

“Who was it originally?” Father created noumu from the worst kinds of criminals or from terminally ill patients from the hospital, but Izuku couldn’t help but feel morbidly curious as he moved forward and approached the creature. The noumu made a soft, whimpering sound in the back of his throat as Izuku reached out to touch it, and he froze.

It acted like it was scared of him.

“Ah, a boy who got in an unfortunate accident. His name is Tsubasa; I believe you knew him. I realized you’d want a companion as we got more entrenched in our games with the hero society, and I accounted for his loyalty toward a familiar face so that he’d protect you with everything he had, if his programming fails.”

Something bitter rises to the back of his throat. Izuku feels sick to his stomach, but he’s not quite sure why. Maybe it was because Tsubasa could have died, and he’d have lost someone he knew without even noticing it. He hadn’t even realized Tsubasa stopped hanging around Kacchan until now, since he’d been so busy preparing for UA’s entrance exams.

“Oh.” He said, softly. “Thank you. It’ll be nice to have a companion.”

Tsubasa made a soft, whining noise in the back of his throat and crawled forward. His nose nuzzled his hand, much like how a dog would sniff a stranger’s hand, and Izuku patted his cold beak. Tsubasa made a strange clicking sound and blinked up at him with wide eyes. They were pitch black now, instead of brown. He wouldn’t have recognized him as the boy he knew if father hadn’t told him.

He almost looked like he was in pain. Or like he would cry if he could.

“The quirks aren’t hurting him, right? They balanced properly.”

“They’re properly balanced.” Father said, but Izuku noticed that he didn’t confirm that he wasn’t in pain.

Tsubasa nudged him in the side, and Izuku tried to smile down at the creature—which was apparently his new companion, or pet, he supposed. He acted very much like an overgrown, winged dog to him, rather than a human being.

He wondered if there was anything left of that boy inside this new form his old friend had been given.

I don’t think All Might would understand if he saw Tsubasa now. He’d think that he’s a monster. Or any of the other heroes for that matter; Tsubasa looked inhuman, and God only knows the heroes will decide to do experiments on him. There was no way he was going to risk Tsubasa being tormented by the government for whatever shady research they wanted to conduct on him.

So he couldn’t tell anyone about Tsubasa, not even Kacchan. Mostly because he didn’t think that they would understand.

 ***

After Izuku left the basement, Tsubasa followed him to his room—and Izuku could feel the way his breathing kept quickening, felt the edges of hysteria crawl into his mind and grab it like a vice, insidious and impossible to remove. So, hands trembling, he walked into the bathroom and shut the door behind him.

He stood there for a good thirty seconds, staring at his reflection in the mirror. He looked pale, and his green eyes looked bright—like he was panicked or worried. But why would he be? He should be grateful that his father gave him such a thoughtful gift. Clearly, he wanted him to be as safe as possible, and Tsubasa already seemed attached to him, so he doubted it would be difficult to get his loyalty.

Izuku’s lunch lurched up into his throat, and he barely had enough time to skid onto his knees before he vomited into the toilet.  

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN: CONFRONTATIONS/RESOLVE


KATSUKI hesitated at the end of the road, where he and Deku used to meet up to walk to school together as kids. Deku’s mom had always been scared about him walking alone through the sketchy alleys, quirkless and weak as he had portrayed himself to be, so Katsuki had made it a point to escort Deku to the school. That was a duty of a hero, wasn’t it? Making sure civilians didn’t get hurt. Even if that civilian was as useless as Deku.

Apparently though, Deku hadn’t needed his help. He wasn’t as weak as he made himself out to be. Maybe he’d been scheming this entire time, trying to get close to him so that he could steal his ideas.

“Kacchan? I didn’t think you’d wait for me…”

Fuck. He hadn’t meant to dwell at this spot for as long as he had, and now Deku was going to think that they were still friends. Katsuki sneered at the notion of being a friend with a liar and a cheat.

“I wasn’t. The old hag was nagging me about my uniform before I left home. So stay out of my way, shitty Deku.” Katsuki snapped at Deku. He looked over his shoulder at his childhood friend. Deku was staring up at him with his too large eyes, mouth gaping a little. He always looked at him like that—like he was someone important. Before Katsuki had realized the truth, the way Deku looked at him made him feel special since he never looked at anyone else the same. Now, it made him feel like a fool, which made him feel angry.

Deku’s shoulders slumped and the brightness in his eyes dimmed a little. Now that they weren’t sparkling at him like he was Bambi or some shit like that, Katsuki noticed the bags underneath his eyes and the way his hands didn’t stop twitching. He always got this way when he felt anxious about something.

“What’s up with you anyway?” Katsuki heard himself ask, which he definitely didn’t intend to do, but he couldn’t take back his words now. To put distance between himself and Deku, he sped up.

“Couldn’t sleep,” Deku replied. Which was the obvious answer and not what Katsuki had meant. He wanted to snap at Deku and get him to answer truthfully, but there was no way that he was going to give him the satisfaction. Fool him twice and all that, right? “My father had me do something for him and I had a hard time going to sleep after that.”

Katsuki frowned. They both got onto the train, pushed against the windows due to the rush hour traffic that Katsuki loathed. Deku’s dad had always seemed strict, though he had never met him in person before. If he was anything like Tomura, Katsuki would really hate him.

They rode to school in silence. It felt strange, since Deku was always chattering enough to talk his ear off whenever they had to walk to middle school. This felt heavy, and awkward.

Damn this nerd. He should have just been truthful from the beginning.


Izuku was excited for the afternoon class he had, Basic Hero Training. Mostly because there were rumors running rampant through the school about how All Might was going to teach it, and as much as his parents couldn’t stand the sight of the Symbol of Peace, there was something so very opportunistic about being taught by All Might. He could tell them about the strategies that heroes were being taught, by the verybest hero, after all.

But despite how excited he felt, he still felt nauseous. He couldn’t sleep last night, the sight of Tsubasa standing over him like a giant looming shadow making him restless for some reason. He’d tried to convince him to leave the bedroom, that he was perfectly safe with his parents, but the noumu hadn’t budged an inch.

Tomura-nii had laughed at him this morning, when Izuku needed to ask mom to order Tsubasa to stay at the house. Tsubasa had whined and cried and looked at him like a dog looked at its owner for treats, but Izuku hadn’t changed his mind— he didn’t think that Tsubasa could accompany him to U.A.. The heroes wouldn’t understand that he was a family member, that he wasn’t going to do harm.

Besides… he didn’t want All Might to see Tsubasa. He wasn’t exactly sure why, but he had a feeling that Yagi wouldn’t approve.

“Deku!” he heard a girl shout, and he saw that girl from earlier —Uraraka— and that boy from the exam. Uraraka ran up to him, following behind Iida, and they cut him off from Kacchan. Which he didn’t really mind, since Kacchan had been nothing but moody for their entire commute.

“Uh, hi, Uraraka, Iida.” He wriggled his fingers and smiled, though he felt unsettled by how friendly they were to him. Nobody was this friendly to him; at least, the only friend he had in middle school was Kacchan. Uraraka’s smile widened and she was bouncing around him, so energetic that Izuku could scarcely keep up with her.

“Did you hear? We’re going to apply what we’ve learned on the field. It’ll be great!”

“I’m sure it will be.” Izuku faked a smile. “I can’t wait.”

“Are you feeling all right, Midoriya?” Iida’s stern voice made Izuku jump and look up at him. “You look tired. You shouldn’t participate in today’s afternoon classes if you’re not in peak physical condition; you might get hurt.”

“Oh, lay off him, Iida-kun. There’s no way he wants to miss today’s class; it’s the first one! Ever!”

“I’ll be fine, Iida. I’m a little tired since it was hard for me to fall asleep, but that’s because I tried going to sleep too early. I usually get less sleep than I got last night.”

Iida made an angry sound that came from the back of his throat. “You need at least seven hours to function properly.”

Izuku tried not to think about the number of times he had survived training during middle school with five hours of sleep or less. Uraraka whistled innocently, putting her hands in the pockets of her skirt, as she looked everywhere but at Iida. Iida looked at both of them, so suspicious, and then he made another disgruntled sound and threw his hands up in the air.

“In my defense, I’ve been getting about six hours on average now,” Izuku said. His faked smile felt a little more genuine. “Thank you for caring, Iida, but it’s fine. I’m used to it.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you.”

Izuku couldn’t think of a response to that, so he stayed silent.

The morning classes passed by in a crawl. English, Japanese, mathematics, and history were taught today. Tomorrow, it would be a different set of four classes. Izuku took notes carefully, and whenever he wasn’t taking notes, he was staring at the back of Kacchan’s head, wondering how to get him to talk to him again.

Lunch came and went, and finally, finally, it was the afternoon. Izuku couldn’t stop himself from moving his foot up and down, bouncing it rapidly enough that it was practically causing his entire body to vibrate. There was an energy in the air as his classmates waited, watching the front door where the teachers came in and out, probably feeling just as excited as Izuku did. Soon and very soon…

“I HAVE COME THROUGH THE DOOR LIKE NORMAL!”

Izuku hid his smile behind his hand as All Might ran through the door. It was amazing, how his very presence made everyone straighten. But then, he was the Symbol of Peace for a reason; he had a magnetic kind of charisma that even his father respected.

“No time to dally! Today’s activity is battle training!”


After they got changed and went outside, Izuku played with the sleeves of his new costume. He had meant to ask his father about suggestions for it, since he knew how All Might’s quirk worked better than he himself did, but he had forgotten in the rush after his acceptance to UA. It was a light green color, with bracers on his elbows and knees, and a hood that covered his head, similar to All Might’s hair style.

All Might had them draw lots and Izuku got put in team a with Uraraka. With a nervous smile, relieved that he’ll at least know someone on his team, Izuku turned to face her. She grinned at him, wide and bright as the sun.

“I wonder how he’ll determine who are villains and heroes.”

Izuku shrugged. “He’ll probably draw lots.”

His prediction proved to be true a couple of minutes later when All Might pulled out team a from the villain slot and team d from the hero slot—the team with Kacchan and Iida on it. There was no small amount of irony that Izuku had been put in the villain team for the first exercise, even if it was by sheer chance. He would have laughed about it if he was alone.

“Villain team enters the building first. You have five minutes to determine your plan.” All Might said, and Izuku gave him a small smile over his shoulder as he followed Uraraka to the center of the building.

“So, what do you think we should do?” Uraraka asked, looking up at him as they jogged through the corridors. “You know Bakugou best.”

“Our objective is to keep the bomb safe, right? Well, I think that we should destroy it at the end if it looks like Iida or Kacchan are going to get past our defense, since villains are likely to do something like that.” Or, at least, that’s what the stereotypical villain would do. Shame on any real villain that would do such a thing… “Um. I’m pretty sure Kacchan’s going to come after me, so I can lure him away from the bomb, and you can deal with Iida, right?”

Uraraka bit her bottom lip. “Are you going to be okay going up against Bakugou alone though? He really seems to have a bone to pick with you, Deku.”

Izuku shook his head. “I’ll be fine. Kacchan would never hurt me, even though he acts like he will.”

The timer went off, blaring an old song loud enough that it made both of them startle. Izuku looked at Uraraka, and she gave him two thumbs-up. Right. He just had to lure Kacchan out and get him to follow him around on a wild goose chase, long enough so that Uraraka could capture Iida. Because Izuku knew that he would never capture Kacchan by himself—he was simply too good at fighting. He had more experience using his quirk than Izuku did.

Izuku had to outsmart Kacchan—which was difficult, because Kacchan’s grades were even better than his—and he had to outlast him. He might lose the battle, but with Uraraka’s help, he knew they could win the war.

So. He was the bait. Kacchan could never back down from a challenge, after all.

He waved goodbye to Uraraka, wished her luck, and then walked outside, clinging to the shadows so that they would keep him hidden enough so that he might have the element of surprise. After all, he would see Iida or Kacchan before they saw him, right? It’d be foolish to expect them to—

The wall in front of Izuku exploded, Kacchan leaping through it in a flurry of fire and fury. A grin was etched across his lips as he pivoted to face him, terrifying and fierce. Any villain would tremble to be at the receiving end of a smile like that.

Izuku gulped.

Kacchan stayed still for a split second, and they assessed each other, trying to understand the other’s weakest point. Tension caused the air to vibrate, like that charged moment before the storm where the wind blew and it was possible to feel the static electricity before lightning struck.

And then he leapt forward. Izuku sidestepped in the nick of time. Kacchan wheeled around on the ball of his foot, explosions propelling his movement, and he jumped, using the wall as a ledge to give himself more momentum.

Kacchan always leads with his right arm, Kacchan always leads right his right arm—

Kacchan never changed.

Izuku moved forward, countering his blow by grabbing onto his arm and yanking down. Kacchan’s momentum did the rest, causing him to fly over his shoulder. He landed hard on his back, slapping his arms down to break the rest of his fall. Izuku leapt forward again, trying to pin Kacchan’s arms down, but Kacchan yanked him down to his level and pinned him down.

“You piss me off, Deku,” he sneered into his face. Izuku narrowed his eyes and then he brought his knee up, hard, not feeling particularly merciful as he took advantage of that weakness. Kacchan cursed, but when Izuku tried to tie the capture tape around him, he broke it off easily.

So, Izuku did the next best thing: he ran away.

Kacchan came crashing after him a split second later, explosions propelling him forward, screaming, “You can’t run away from me, Deku!” And Izuku knew he couldn’t run forever, but he couldn’t fight Kacchan head on either, and he couldn’t let him take him down too quickly or easily, otherwise there wouldn’t be enough time for Uraraka to keep the bomb away from Iida.

They had fifteen minutes to defend the bomb. How many did they have left now? Ten? Five? He couldn’t tell, and he didn’t know where the counter was.

“Uraraka,” he gasped over the microphone, wheeling around the corner. Kacchan blasted after him, screaming about how he was going to take him down. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine!” she shrieked shrilly back at him. “Iida’s here. I’m keeping him away! I’m not sure how long I can though!”

All he could think about was how he had once cowered to Kacchan’s strength; how he had once just wanted to passively lie down and let Kacchan do whatever he felt like doing. Mostly walk all over him, sometimes other kids. He’d never challenged him.

He’d told him he never wanted to compete with him.

Glancing up at the ceiling, Izuku grinned and hit his microphone again. “Uraraka, how do you feel about making a mess of this building? Since we don’t have to defend the bomb from going off…”

Static for a minute. And then she came back on again, “Be careful, Deku! And go for it!”

Izuku stood up. Kacchan wheeled around the corner, the explosions driving him forward, but then he stopped abruptly, as if he was surprised to see him here. As if he wasn’t expectingto see him. Izuku barred his teeth at him in a mimicry of All Might’s grin.

“I forgot to say it before, but Kacchan, I take it all back!” He shouted. “I don’t want to lose to you.”

“Why are you not using it? Your quirk. Are you mocking me, Deku?” Kacchan’s grin looked crazed, his grenades raised and pointed directly at him. Izuku was backed into the corner with nowhere to go, but it wasn’t like he was looking to run away again.

I can do it!

“I’m not afraid of you anymore! I’m the Deku who can do it!”

Kacchan grinned. He looked ferocious, and any other time, Izuku probably would have been enchanted by the smile on his face, the way he looked when he was right in his element. Honestly, he felt a little enchanted now, but there were bigger things he had to focus on.

“I guess you know all of this already, but the sweat glands on my palms produce nitroglycerin, which allows me to make my explosions.” Izuku stilled at Kacchan’s words, taking in the way his tone was gleeful and the way he was smirking. “Assuming that they honored my request, these gauntlets should have stored the fluid…”

No way. Don’t tell me they gave you something like that—

Kacchan grinned and an explosion, far bigger than anything Izuku had seen him make before, was released, so hot and wild that it could scarcely be contained. Izuku tumbled back, head over heels, and he gasped as his skin blistered from the heat, like it was a sunny day.

… Kacchan. I don’t understand.

As the dust settled, he heard All Might tell Kacchan that if he released another explosion like that, he would be disqualified. But Kacchan stalked on him, like he was someone he considered to be an enemy, and Izuku—

Izuku didn’t understand.

I thought you would never hurt me.

“Time to kill you!” Kacchan screamed, and again, he leapt forward with the use of his quirk. Izuku didn’t have time to dodge, too disoriented to even think about moving out of the way. All he could do was counter, actuallyuse his quirk—

But then Kacchan was sailing above his head, another explosion came from behind him, so loud that it made his ears ring, and Izuku screamed as he fell forward. Kacchan grabbed his upper arm, grip so tight that it was bruising, and he threw him over his shoulder—the same way Izuku had done to him. His back slammed against the ground, knocking the wind out of him.

He scrambled to his feet, backed himself up against the wall, and Kacchan approached him slowly, the way a predator approaches its prey, knowing that the prey had nowhere to hide.

I don’t want to get eaten! He thought hysterically, plan after plan bouncing around in his head, but none of them were right. None of them would do anything

He glanced up at the ceiling. Oh.

“Why aren’t you using your quirk? Are you mocking me? You’ve been lying to me ever since we were kids!”

“You’re wrong,” Izuku whispered, but he didn’t think that Kacchan heard him. Of course he wouldn’t have—he barely heard himself say it.

“I know you’re looking down on me!”

“It’s because you’re so amazing at everything you do, that I want to beat you! I want to win! I want to beat you!” Izuku screamed, loud enough that it rivaled Kacchan’s voice.

“Stop looking at me like that, you damned nerd!”

Izuku leapt forward, because he couldn’t use his own strengths against Kacchan to beat him, but he could win this war—he had Uraraka on his side.

“Uraraka, destroy it!” he screamed into the microphone, as he wound up his attack.

And then he and Kacchan collided, like two shooting stars.


Izuku woke up in the hospital wing for the second day in a row.

… I need to make sure this doesn’t become a habit. Mom would be mad.

Yagi was sitting down next to him in the chair, long limbs awkwardly folded so that he could fit as close to the bed as he could. He was writing on a sheet of paper—maybe grading their performances from today?

“Y-Yagi-san?” he asked, choking his name out around the gravel in his throat. Yagi-san startled and looked at him with wide eyes, before they softened and he let out a sigh of relief. Izuku pushed himself up into a sitting position with his one good arm. “I’m in the hospital again?”

“I’m afraid so, my boy. I should have stopped young Bakugou earlier, before harm came to you.”

“It’s fine,” Izuku said, poking at his cast in leu of his fingers. After all, he was the one who had antagonized Kacchan recklessly, getting him to come at him. “I riled Kacchan up anyway.”

Yagi-san ruffled his hair and sat with him in the silence, until Recovery Girl came back and cleared him to go so long he drank fluids and got enough rest. So, Izuku left, avoiding his classroom and just heading outside to wait for Kacchan—because he had to talk to him, before this misunderstanding got further out of hand.

He didn’t have to wait for long before Kacchan showed up at the stairs.

“What, shitty nerd? Haven’t you had enough mocking me today?” He just sounded so tired, and it made something inside of Izuku twitch uncomfortably. The feeling was similar to how he felt every time he looked at Tsubasa, but he couldn’t quite put his name on it.

“I never meant to mock you, or lie to you, or cheat,” Izuku said quietly. He wished he could wring his hands together, but he couldn’t. “I can’t say much, but—but… I got my quirk from someone else. I can’t say who from, but you deserve to know this much at least!”

Kacchan snorted. “That sounds like it came out of some goddamn fairy tale, Deku. Stop trying to trick me.”

“I’m not!” Izuku cried out, speeding up and grabbing Kacchan’s arm—but Kacchan yanked his arm out of his grasp before he could grip onto him. “Why do you never listen to me, Katsuki? I’d never lie to you!”

“I don’t even know who you are anymore, Deku. You just, out of nowhere, suddenly decide that you want to become a hero after years of saying you don’t, and you get some magical quirk to go along with it? Why the fuck should I believe you?” Kacchan’s hands were clenching, a sign of an impending explosion—but it never came, strangely enough. Maybe he was too tired from fighting him earlier. “You better enjoy your win. I might have lost to you today, but it’ll never happen again.”

I want to make this power my own and use it to surpass you someday.

Izuku’s heart climbed into his throat, blocking the words he wanted to say, as Kacchan stomped off with his shoulders slumped and his head held high. He wanted, needed, to get Kacchan to understand—Kacchan was his only friend, and it wasn’t right that Kacchan thought he had been lying to him this entire time. He didn’t want him to think that he’d been tricking him this entire time.

A lot of things in his life might be a lie, and he might have to hide a lot of things about him family from Kacchan, but his quirklessness had never been one, and he had never lied about how much he cared about him. He was his best friend. He didn’t want to lose him over something like this; not when it was completely unrelated to his family’s activities.

But Kacchan never listened to him, and he wasn’t likely to start now.

I don’t know how to get him to understand me…

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN: LURKING/PRESENT


IS there something bothering you, Izuku? You seem uneasy.”

Tsubasa was looming over Izuku’s shoulder again, large and foreboding, but he was easier to ignore in the face of his mom’s worried expression. She fed Tsubasa with some spare bits of bacon, using her quirk to move him aside so that she could slide into the chair next to him. Izuku ate another spoonful of miso soup.

“Nothing’s wrong.” He paused when she looked at him skeptically, clearly not buying what he said. He smiled at her and leaned into her side, in an attempt to distract her. He didn’t know if it worked or not. She carded her fingers through his hair. “Really, nothing is wrong.”

Mom shook her head. “Izuku, I know you better than that. You can’t hide anything from me.”

“I’m fine, mom.” Izuku didn’t mean to snap, but he wasn’t sure how to get her to listen to him. Because he was telling the truth, absolutely nothing was wrong when it came to his academics, and he’d healed since his fight with Kacchan on Ground Beta. The only thing that was wrong was that Kacchan thought he had lied to him this entire time and, even though Izuku had tried to explain that this quirk w asn’t something he was born with, he was still ignoring him.

Mom frowned. “Izuku, I’m worried about you.”

Izuku stood up. “There’s no need to be.” He shrugged into his blazer, and he leaned over to slip into his shoes. He was going to be late to class if he didn’t leave soon. “I have to go to school. Love you, mom.” He kissed her cheek and put his backpack on.

“You haven’t even finished your breakfast.”

“I’m not hungry.” That was true, too. He had been hungry early this morning, but for some reason, his appetite disappeared when he walked out of his shared bedroom and stumbled over Tsubasa.

“You need to eat a large breakfast to keep up your strength for this morning…”

“I only have regular classes this morning, and I’ll eat a large lunch before I have to take my afternoon classes. I’ll be fine, mom. Please stop worrying about me.”

“Wait, Izuku! Do you remember what your father said last night at dinner? You’re not going to be able to eat lunch today.”

Izuku nodded, even though dinner had passed in a blur and he didn’t remember much of it at all. Not even what he had eaten. He waved over his shoulder as he closed the front door behind him on the way out, and he started on his light jog. Maybe Kacchan will be waiting for him at the end of their street again. Izuku left a bit earlier than usual, so he might actually catch him and they could take the train to UA together.

But Kacchan wasn’t waiting at the street corner, and he wasn’t at the station when the trained pulled up. So, Izuku went on it alone.


When Izuku arrived, he slipped into the loud classroom, trying to avoid meeting someone’s eyes. His classmates were stranger than he expected for a Heroics class; despite the competitiveness that they got occasionally, especially Kacchan, all of them were genuinely friendly and they were determined to get to know everyone in his class. If Izuku was here to make friends, he would have been beyond thrilled after middle school, where the only person that deemed him worthy to be his friend was Kacchan.

He placed his bag down on the table, and for a moment, he thought that he might not have attracted anyone’s attention. Not even Kacchan was sitting at his chair yet, looking irritated as he argued with a boy that had blond hair and black dyed tips and the red haired guy. But then Uraraka popped out of what seemed to be nowhere, with a large smile, and she poked him in the side. He jumped, yelping something like a laugh.

“A-ah, Uraraka,” Izuku stuttered, and then he smiled at her to hide how nervous he felt being around a girl. “I wonder what Aizawa-sensei’s got in store for us today.”

“Probably something brutal!” She mimicked punching the air, and she let out a loud laugh that made at least three or four heads turn in their direction. Izuku figured that avoiding attention had just gone down the drain. “He likes making us suffer. I bet that it’ll be hard but worth it, somehow.”

“We just did the Hero vs. Villain exercise exercise yesterday afternoon. I doubt that they’re going to have us do something crazy today, kero.” A girl with a rather bland face and black hair jumped into the conversation. When they both looked at him expectantly, Izuku shrugged.

“I’m sure it’ll be important, whatever we learn.” Izuku stated, neutrally, or as neutrally as he could.

When Aizawa shuffled into the classroom, the girls dispersed immediately back to their desks. It looked like they had learned their lesson from the first day quickly. Kacchan settled in the chair in front of him, and the chatter died. Aizawa cleared his throat and walked around his desk, so that he was leaning on the front of it. His eyes were dark and unreadable as he glared at all of them. Or maybe he was just staring at them; Izuku didn’t know.

“Your grades for your battle assignments have come in, and while the majority of you performed well enough, some of you were a cause for concern. Bakugou, grow up already. You have talent, so don’t waste it on mindless rage. Midoriya, you need to learn to control your quirk before you’re irreparably hurt. Just trying isn’t good enough.”

Izuku sunk into his seat, feeling even his ears flush with embarrassment at being called out in front of the entire class. At least he wasn’t the only one Aizawa picked on. Kacchan’s shoulders were tense as he grumbled in assent.

Aizawa cleared his throat and Izuku looked back up at him. “Now, onto homeroom business. Sorry about the sudden announcement—” murmurs broke out, and there was no small amount of fear of a random pop quiz, but Izuku didn’t think that Aizawa would apologize for something like that. “— but you all need to pick a class president.”

“Finally, something normal!”Somebody right of Izuku whispered fervently. And there was a mad scramble as the other kids volunteered to be the class president, loud and rowdy, with no small amount of enthusiasm. Izuku was not used to loud noises like this, a cacophony of yelling and quirks as they declared that they should be picked to be class president, and he wanted to flinch away, but he couldn’t.

So he sat still, trying to wait it out. In front of him, sparks popped in Kacchan’s hand as he, too, yelled that he wanted to become the class president, which Izuku found surprising. Kacchan wasn’t a people person at all, could barely stand them in fact, so why would he want to be the president? There was no way he’d mediate arguments with his temper; if anything, he’d be the one starting the arguments.

Absolutely ridiculous.

Iida eventually shouted over everyone that they needed to hold a vote for the class, which got them to settle down.

“Is that even allowed, sensei?” Someone up front asked Aizawa, who shrugged as he crawled into his sleeping bag.

“I don’t care how you choose your president. Just make it quick.”

“But we don’t even know anyone very well, Iida. Everybody’s just going to vote for themself.” Izuku heard the boy that had difficulty controlling the voltage of his electricity quirk say. Izuku looked down and frowned; he’ll just have to vote for someone else then. But who? Iida was too rigid, a little too controlling, but maybe Yaoyorozu would be a better fit for the class president…

So, Izuku voted for her to be class president once everyone had agreed on a way to collect and tally the votes. That would ensure that he wouldn’t be able to become the president by some pure round of luck if nobody voted for anyone but themselves; besides, Yaoyorozu seemed level-headed enough for the duties.

Two votes.Izuku stared at his name sitting right beneath Yaoyorozu, who had three votes; three people had voted for her, which was surprising. What was more surprising was that two other people had voted for Izuku, two people that weren’t him and certainly not Kacchan. But who did he know well enough that would vote for him? Why? Izuku shouldn’t be in any type of position to be a leader; he didn’t want the attention, or the time commitment.

“Who’d the hell vote for Deku?” Kacchan asked, sounding bewildered and frustrated. When he turned around to look at Izuku, Izuku shrugged, and he scowled.

“I figured that I’d get zero votes, but the reality of this office is still harsh,” Iida bemoaned. Someone pushed Izuku gently out of his seat, and Izuku stumbled as he walked to the front of the class, meeting Yaoyorozu. She smiled at him.

“It’ll be a pleasure to work with you in the future, Midoriya!”

Izuku bowed to hide his forced smile. “No, no! The pleasure is all mine, Yaoyorozu-san.”

“Fine,” Aizawa abruptly announced, making Izuku jump. “Yaoyorozu is your president, while Midoriya is your vice-president.”

The lunch bell rang.


At lunch, when Uraraka had gestured wildly at the empty seat across from her, and Kacchan’s table was full, Izuku sat down at where she indicated, next to Iida. He nibbled at his rice as she started rambling about how busy it was and how good the rice was.

“Yeah, they have the support course students here, as well as the general and business courses,” Iida said.

“What’s bothering you, Deku?” Uraraka tilted her head, reached across the table, and stole some of the raw fish off his plate. Izuku shrugged.

“I just don’t know if I’m cut out to be the Vice President.” Izuku interlocked his fingers, biting at his bottom lip. A nervous tick that father had scolded him about numerous times, but one which he couldn’t seem to just train away.

“Of course you are. You’re brilliant,” said Uraraka. She smiled at him, and somehow, Izuku found it in him to smile back at her a little. It wasn’t faked or forced either.

“I have faith in you,” said Iida, setting his bowl down and adjusting his classes. “Your quick-thinking intellect has already helped a few of our classmates in a pinch. Not only that, but you’re charismatic. People listen to you when you speak, even if you don’t notice it.”

He hadn’t noticed. “T-they do?” He clarified. Uraraka nodded, cheeks stuffed with rice. Iida picked up his bowel again.

“That’s why I voted for you.”

“But didn’t you want to be class president, Iida? You even have the glasses for it.”

“Ambition and suitability are two completely separate things. I humbly made the choice that I felt correct.”

“Iida, are you rich? The way you talk…” Izuku choked on the rice he was swallowing, but Uraraka was unrepentant as she looked at Iida. The boy flushed, but he nodded, confirming what she said.

“Yes. My family is a generational hero family. Do you know about the Turbo Hero, Ingenium?”

Oh. This was information that his father would appreciate. Izuku opened his mouth to reply—

“He’s a renowned hero who has employed at least fifty sidekicks at his office. I think he’s stationed in Tokyo? Not only that, but the hero name Ingenium has always been inherited from the generation before it by the oldest child—”

— and word vomited again. But Iida seemed pleased, by the small smile curling at the corners of his lips.

“You’re well informed. He’s my brother. The way he leads civilians to safety with unwavering adherence to the rules and regulations are the mark of a true hero. He inspires me, even if I might not be ready to lead yet.”

“That’s very noble, Iida,” Uraraka said. “I decided to become a hero because I wanted the money. My parent’s construction business is failing, and I want to give them a better life.” She frowned slightly. “It’s selfish, but they always look so tired and stressed because there’s never enough to quite make ends meet.”

Iida waved his hands around wildly, and Izuku shook his head. “Wanting to give your parents a better life— that’s a very noble reason, Uraraka!”

“Yeah, your reason is nobler than mine.” Izuku smiled at her and took a bite of his rice. “Growing up, nobody told me that I could become a hero because my quirk didn’t manifest until I got strong enough to handle it; you see what it does to me now. Even Kacchan would tell me that I was going to go to a quirkiness high school, even though we both admired All Might; my older brother was even worse than Kacchan about it. But then someone told me that I could become a hero. So, I decided to apply to UA because he gave me a chance, and because I wanted to prove my brother wrong. I didn’t really expect to get in.”

“So, you want to become a hero out of spite?” Uraraka asked, tilting her head. Izuku shrugged, because that seemed appropriate enough. His main objective was to spy on heroes. She smiled at him and covered his hand. “It’s still a valid reason, Deku.”

Iida nodded. “Better a hero than villain,” he said. Izuku’s stomach turned and he choked out a laugh that sounded too high pitched to his own ears. Uraraka frowned and opened her mouth, but before she could say something, the alarms went off.

Level three security has been breached. All students please evacuate in an orderly fashion.”

Izuku looked at Iida. “What does that even mean?”

“It means that someone’s infiltrated the building—”

Is that Tomura-nii? Izuku wondered and he looked at the window, but there were too many students blocking his view. Mom had mentioned something about not being able to eat lunch, they had discussed it over dinner the night before, but Izuku didn’t remember what they had been talking about.

“Iida, everyone’s going to panic,” Izuku said, grabbing Iida’s arm as they got dragged into the rush. “Everyone is panicking!”

“What can we do about it?” Iida shouted. Someone screamed. Izuku looked around futilely for inspiration, but his mind was blank. His palms were sweating too, and he lost contact with Iida, pulled away from him by the crowds. Izuku started to fall as the crowds pushed in front and behind him.

And then Iida was floating above them, and everyone stopped moving for a moment. He slammed against the wall, engines whirling still. Izuku gasped, trying to still his racing heart, but he didn’t think that he did too well with that. And then—

“Everyone calm down! It’s just the press! There’s nothing to panic about!” 

Eventually, with Iida’s words, everyone settled back down and stopped panicking. Izuku got a chance to look outside the window now that they weren’t crowding in and around him, and frowned.

The gates were completely demolished, as if Tomura-nii had touched them with all five of his fingers and they completely dissolved. But what was his father and Tomura-nii planning?

 ***

When they got back to the class, Izuku stood up front with Yaoyorozu and spoke up. “Thank you for choosing me to be Vice President, but I believe that Iida is better suited for the role. You all saw how he led everyone, so I feel like he’s the best choice for this job.”

He bowed at a forty-five degree angle, and there was a moment of silence before murmurs of agreement came up. Iida looked surprised as he was pushed to the front.

“Midoriya, are you sure? I only did what you would have done.”

Izuku smiled. “I voted for Yaoyorozu to be class president because I don’t have the time to dedicate to this position. Besides, even if someone is suitable, if they don’t have the ambition or desire for the job, then they shouldn’t have it.”

Iida blinked and then he bowed at him, looking deeply honored. “Thank you! I will accept the job then!”

“You’re welcome.”


Before dinner, Izuku was sent up into father’s office to retrieve him. He knocked on the door, and when he heard the softly spoken, “Come in,” he poked his head around the door and smiled at him.

“Dinner’s almost ready.”

Father pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, looked up, and nodded. He moved the paper that he had spread across his desk into a neat pile as Izuku walked behind him and started to unhook him from the oxygen machine. It was a miracle that he had survived his fight with All Might, despite the scars— but he knew that those, too, would heal with time. He had a regeneration quirk after all.

He didn’t ask what type of noumu he was designing. Izuku didn’t want to know. He wasn’t sure if he had helped Tsubasa when he balanced the quirk factors. If he even had balanced them properly.

They walked downstairs in silence, Izuku hovering half a step behind him. Tsubasa joined them when they passed his and Tomura-nii’s bedroom, butting his head against Izuku’s hand for pats. He growled at father when he reached out to do the same.

“He’s more protective of you than I realized he would be. I’m surprised he lets you go to school alone.”

“Tsubasa is smart; I told him that he couldn’t follow me and he understood.” Izuku smiled, but he hesitated as he scratched him underneath his chin. Looking at the top of his head still made him feel woozy, and he tried to avoid looking at the exposed brain matter. Tsubasa sat on his haunches next to Izuku’s chair at the table, twisted his head around, and looked at him with wide eyes, like a dog begging for dinner scraps.

“You need to stop treating him like he’s a pet.” Tomura-nii grumbled as he tripped over Tsubasa’s tail. He caught himself on the back of Izuku’s chair, but with no small amount of ire. “He’s a weapon designed to protect you and to take down All Might, not some puppy you adopted.”

“Tsubasa isn’t a weapon, so I won’t treat him as such. He’s more of a party member; you have to treat him well!” Izuku turned his back on Tomura-nii and scratched Tsubasa, silently apologizing for how mean he was. Maybe Tsubasa made him feel uneasy, but that was no reason to call him a weapon. “Anyway, what were you doing at the school? The gates were dissolved. I’m not complaining because it gave me an opportunity to convince my class to make Iida Vice President instead of me, but I don’t remember you telling me what you were going to do..”

“You were named Vice President?” Father asked, looking at Izuku. Izuku nodded. He hummed under his breath. “That’s good; they trust you already. And you gave it to this boy— Iida? The name sounds familiar to me.”

“His family have been heroes for generations. Have you heard of the Turbo Hero Ingenium?”

“Yes. He’s one of the youngest heroes to ever open their own agency. It’s in downtown Tokyo, if I remember correctly.”

“That’s correct. Well, Hero Ingenium is Iida Tenya’s older brother. Our class held a vote for the class president, and I voted for this girl, Yaoyorozu Momo, so that I wouldn’t be chosen. However, Iida and Uraraka both voted for me, so I became the Vice President. The entire school panicked when the alarms went off, but Iida thought of a plan and told everyone that it was the reporters who got in.”

“Excellent, Izuku.” Father smiled, which was a strange expression on his face. He never smiled. “I think you made the right call, to step down for Iida. You now have rapport with this boy. Tell me, how firm do you think he is in his family’s ideals? Do you think he can be swayed to our side? He’d be a valuable asset.”

“Iida’s very driven to become a hero; he follows the rules and regulations to a fault. I’m not sure if we can sway him to our side, but I can continue to get close to him, get him to trust me.”

“The Iida family is one of the pillars of Heroic Society. The Todorokis are another. And All Might’s time is borrowed. If you can damage the Iida family, whether that is by bringing the boy to our side, or by eliminating him…”

Izuku frowned. “We’re trying not to kill, aren’t we? Iida hasn’t done anything; he’s not one of those false heroes.”

“Iida hasn’t done anything yet, Izu-nii.” Tomura-nii spoke up abruptly, scorn dripping off his tone, and he bit into his food. “Not only is he training to be a hero, but he’s from the major hero families. Better to eliminate him sooner on, before he becomes a problem.”

Mom shook her head. “What your brother and father aren’t explaining—” she sent them a sour look, “—is that we can blackmail the family into submission. It’s not as easy as the Todoroki family to find the blemishes in their records, but one way or another, we’re going to topple the hero society. Any information Iida Tenya tells you should be repeated to your father or I, even if you think it might be unimportant. It might be the linchpin to enable our operation’s success.”

Izuku nodded seriously. He understood only too well the part he had to play in the Family Business; he couldn’t let them down, not when they had entrusted him with so much.

Beneath him, a growl rumbled in Tsubasa’s chest. Izuku stroked the back of his neck to calm him.

“Now, let’s eat before it gets cold.”

It wasn’t until Izuku was about to fall asleep, warm and full, that he remembered his original question that started the whole argument. What was Tomura-nii doing at the school during lunch in the first place?

“Nii-san, are you awake?” He whispered, turning over in the bed to face Tomura-nii.

“No,” he said.

“Why were you at school anyway?”

“Because I have a part to play in father’s masterplan, Izuku. Now stop talking to me and go the fuck to sleep.”

“Fine.” Izuku rolled his eyes and looked at the ceiling. Years ago, he’d been fascinated by mom’s stories about when she was a little girl, about how she ran around in the country as a child and saw stars. He’d never seen them in person because it was too bright at night, but she had painted them for him.

Tsubasa grumbled again. Izuku hoped he wasn’t in pain.

He wondered what they were going to do tomorrow for hero training, since they hadn’t done anything today after the whole fiasco with the alarms going off and the panic that had ensured from that.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWELVE: TRUE COLORS


 

“EVERYONE, get in a single-file line before getting into the bus!” Iida shouted from the front of the bus, gesticulating wildly.

“It’s like he’s class president and not Yaoyorozu. I mean really, he’s treating us like we’re stupid… which, I mean, okay he has a point, but I’m not always dumb.” The boy in front of Izuku grumbled to his friend, jumping up and down on the balls of his feet, anxious and never ceasing. The girl shook her head and fiddled with one of the headphones attached to her ear.

“Chill out, Kaminari. It’s not like he’s doing anything that’s gonna hurt anybody.”

“I am chill; he’s the one that needs to chill out!”

“It seems like Iida’s enjoying his new role,” Uraraka said, stepping into line beside him, decidedly not single-file like Iida had requested. Izuku smiled at her, tugging at the edge of his costume. Because that was what it was, wasn’t it? This superhero suit that he had to build. A costume to hide his true colors. “He’s well suited for it.”

“Yeah, better him than me.”

“Who did you vote to be president anyway? Bakugou?”

“Kacchan? God, no. He hates working with people.” Izuku laughed at the idea of Kacchan being the class president. That would be something— even though there was something about Kacchan that drew people to him, he wasn’t suited temperamentally for the same role. “I voted for Yaoyorozu since she has a pretty level head.”

“Oh,” she said, quietly— surprised. “You’re right, she does seem pretty sensible. Though I think people like you more now than they did before.”

Izuku looked off to the side. He’d hoped that by nominating Iida to be the Vice President for class, he’d slide away from the limelight, but for some reason, people thought that he was noble for standing down, and so… more people were noticing him. That hadn’t been his intention, but it wasn’t like he could do anything about it for now.

He and Uraraka boarded the bus and sat across from each other. A girl with a bland face sat beside Izuku— if he remembered correctly, she had a mutant-type quirk that gave her the abilities of a frog. Iida sat down beside Uraraka once the bus started moving.

“It’s nice to meet you. My name is Asui Tsuyu,” the girl said. “Call me Tsuyu.”

“Midoriya,” Izuku held his hand out and she shook it.

“Uraraka.”

“Iida.”

“Your quirk resembles All Might’s,” Tsuyu said, abruptly, and Izuku looked at her with wide eyes.

“That’s— um, I get that a lot.” He faked a laugh, hoping it didn’t sound nervous. From behind him, Kacchan snorted, and Izuku wished he could kick him. Eavesdropping wasn’t polite, and Kacchan was clearly salty about Kirishima sitting next to him. Izuku thought it would be good for him to have more friends. “I just wish I could control it better. It didn’t appear until a couple months ago; apparently, I wasn’t able to handle it until I developed enough body mass.”

Tsuyu’s expression didn’t change, but she spoke quickly enough, so Izuku didn’t start babbling the way he usually did when he felt nervous. “Ah, so that’s why you’ve already been in the hospital so often. You should learn to control it quick, before it does permanent damage.”

“I know. It’s a… work in progress.”

Uraraka snorted— laughter, or the first part of it. But she wasn’t laughing at what Tsuyu had said, because Iida was moving away with an offended little scowl on his face. “If you need help, I can give you tips. I used to send random things flying into the sky when I was little, until I figured out how to control my quirk.”

“Really? That’d be great, Uraraka! Thank you.”

“Yeah, your quirk is really cool, Midoriya.” Kirishima turned around in his seat so that he was facing them. Izuku craned his head back and looked up at him; he was sitting directly behind him, so clearly, Kacchan was sitting behind Tsuyu. “I bet once you figure out how to use it properly, you can use it to run faster and do other stuff like that. My quirk’s pretty boring in comparison to that. All I can do with it is harden my skin.”

“It’s still pretty neat though,” Izuku said. He was telling the truth, because he could see a lot of potential and flexibility behind it. “You’re basically indestructible. A sturdy hero; villains would have a hard time breaking through your defense.”

“Besides, you have to worry about being popular appeal if you go pro,” said a girl with pink skin and hair. “You already have the friendly neighborhood superhero vibe going, Kiri.”

Kirshima chuckled, rubbing the back of his head. So, he gets embarrassed easily, and he’s not confident in himself. Izuku found that surprising since Kirishima had such a sunny deposition. Or maybe it wasn’t so surprising; Kacchan acted like he was so cocksure of himself and aloof that most people didn’t notice that it was a front to hide his insecurities.

“My laser beam is strong and cool for going pro.”

“So long you don’t overdo it and get yourself sick!”

“If we’re talking about strong cool, then Bakugou and Todoroki both hit the mark pretty well. But Bakugou’s so unhinged he’ll never be popular.”

“What did you say, frog face?!”

“See?”

Izuku rubbed his head as chaos descended around him between Kacchan screaming at everyone who insulted him, which only egged the others on, and the others weighing in on their quirks. Who’d have thought hero schools were so lively; he wasn’t sure what exactly he thought he’d be getting into almost a year ago, but it certainly wasn’t this.

At least most of the attention was off him, and he could finally watch everyone without anyone noticing. His classmates were strong, in any way it was considered, and he wanted to understand them so he could figure out their weaknesses. For the future, when he wouldn’t have this opportunity. When they were directly opposed.

Not now though; he didn’t think that they were a threat yet. But as his father said, they were the eggs of the hero-world, still in the embryo stage of development. Eventually, they’ll hatch. Kacchan was already growing, it was only a matter of time before he blossomed. The others weren’t far behind.

They were only kids now, but even All Might was a kid once, and now he was the greatest hero of their era. Eventually, they would grow up, and they would be heroes of their own name. Maybe some of them would join the greats. Izuku had little doubt Kacchan would join the greats; he just hoped that once Kacchan figured out his true colors…

Well, he hoped he wouldn’t be anywhere in his general vicinity when that happened.

“Alright now, look sharp,” Aizawa drawled as the bus rolled to a stop. “Listen to your Vice President.”

So, they all filed out of the bus in a single line and obediently followed their sensei to the front entrance of the gymnasium. Izuku listened as Uraraka and Asui — Tsuyu— chattered in front of him about which heroes were going to teach them. This was a facility for rescue training, too. And not universal studios Japan.

Izuku hung to the back of the group as the Rescue Hero, Thirteen, introduced themself and explained how their quirk worked, how they had honed it so that they could use it to rescue people, but that it was easy to use it to kill and hurt people.

A lot like Tomura-nii’s quirk. A lot like a lot of quirks, if Izuku thought about it. He’d seen the way Endeavor had used his quirk to harm people, and he’d been on the receiving end of Kacchan’s quirk. All Might’s quirk, even, the quirk that he had inherited; it hurt him to use it every time, but if he could just hone it so that he could control it…

“Hey sensei, are they part of training?” Somebody asked. Izuku turned, in the direction that the boy was pointing toward. A swirling dark mass was forming in the middle of the room, and as Izuku watched, it condensed into something solid. Out of the portal, Tomura-nii crawled, gray eyes covered by a large hand, entire body covered by suspended hands, a strange, twisted version of himself.

“No.” Aizawa-sensei said. The hairs on the back of Izuku’s neck rose. “They’re not part of the training. These are villains; Thirteen, get them out of here!”

“Hmm,” said Tomura-nii, “All Might’s not here. I wonder if killing a couple of kids will get him to come.”

It’s an act, Izuku reminded himself. It was a good thing he had to remind himself of this, because it meant that Tomura-nii’s acting was believable. Even if he wasn’t acting, it was a necessary evil— the heroes wouldn’t allow their voices to be heard, so they’d make sure they’re heard.

Albeit, by doing an evil act didn’t seem like a bright idea to Izuku.

“Try calling the school,” Aizawa-sensei— Eraserhead— ordered, turning and putting his goggles on. Izuku swallowed; surely he couldn’t be so arrogant to think he could take on all these people, right?

“The signals are jammed!” Someone cried, sounding panicked.

“Kaminari, try to figure out a way to get a signal over.”

“Sensei, you can’t fight all of them at once!” Izuku said, moving forward. He was concerned, he didn’t want anyone to get hurt, and Aizawa was hopelessly outnumbered. “Your quirk— you can only deactivate one quirk at a time, right? There’s no way you can nullify all their quirks at once!”

Eraserhead looked at him, and it halted Izuku in his track. Yes, he looked confident, and he looked like he was in control and he that knew what he was doing, but there was nothing arrogant in the way he stood. “A good hero has more than one trick under his bag.”

Then he leapt into the fray. There was no hesitation in the way he moved, graceful and dangerous, like a panther on the prowl. He cut a divide through them like he was parting the Red Sea. Even outnumbered like this, he could hold his own.

Izuku looked at Tomura-nii. His brother didn’t look happy. He could imagine what he was thinking: that pro heroes were a pain in his ass, that no ordinary person could take all of them on like this. But Aizawa-sensei was a trained prohero. He wasn’t an ordinary person.

“Greetings,” he heard Kurogiri say from behind him. Izuku turned around. Kurogiri loomed above them, menacing and dangerous, but Izuku knew that he would not harm them. “We are the league of villains. Forgive our audacity for entering your school, but we are here to end the life of All Might. We were under the impression that he would be here today, but it appears his schedule was revised.”

And then the darkness engulfed them. Izuku sucked in a breath, startled, because of the cold; Kurogiri never felt as cold as he did now when he transported them, in fact, he usually felt quite warm. Perhaps it was meant to unnerve them.

“No matter. It does not change my role,” were the last words Izuku heard before the portal descended upon them. He could hear their shrieks of surprise and fear, but Izuku felt calm.

Kurogiri would never hurt him, and father would never allow harm to come to him.


After they escaped from the boat, Izuku, Tsuyu, and Mineta swam to the shore, making sure to keep close to the edge of the fighting, where nobody could see them. Or, at least, that was what they were going to do, until Tsuyu drew short and tugged on Izuku’s arm.

“It looks like Aizawa-sensei is drawing them to the plaza.”

Izuku looked in the direction she pointed and frowned. “There’s so many villains though,” he said, while thinking he’s being overwhelmed. “I don’t know how long he’ll make it alone.”

“Surely you don’t mean jumping in? We’ll just get in the way.”

“Let’s just wait for an opening then. Lighten his load a little, you know?”

But as Izuku watched, Aizawa charged toward Tomura-nii with a ferocity that scared him. So this is the world of the pros. An unending cycle of violence and fury. He didn’t hesitate as he threw a punch at Tomura-nii with perfect form; Tomura-nii hunched over as his fist made contact with his stomach, but his hands enclosed Aizawa-sensei’s elbow as he tried to slide away.

Izuku swallowed. His skin started to shrivel under Tomura-nii’s touch, and he knewit was for the good of the family. He knew it was to advance their cause, but it didn’t stop him from cringing. It didn’t stop him from wishing that there was another way.

But this was the price to reveal the true colors of Hero Society, and Izuku had steeled himself to pay it long ago. Aizawa was one of them; he was deeply embattled in the other side, and he wouldn’t see their reasons. He’d just think that they were doing this just for laughs.

Tsuyu gasped, Mineta whimpered. Izuku looked up.

That’s… noumu. Like the one I helped father engineer.

Izuku couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t breathe, as he watched noumu charge toward Aizawa-sensei without a moment’s hesitation. Noumu’s hand was large enough to cover Aizawa-sensei’s face; with his own brute strength, he threw him onto the ground, over and over and over again. Every time, Aizawa struggled to push himself back up a little more feebly.

Every time, Izuku flinched and felt a little sliver of his soul shrivel up and die.

“Sensei!” Mineta sounded like he was close to sobbing. Izuku still could not move. Tsuyu clutched his arm, fingers digging into it.

This is the only way, Izuku reminded himself. This is the only way.

Even if it was the only way, it bothered him. He didn’t want anybody to get hurt. But it was the only way, and he wouldn’t shy away from this more unpleasant aspect of the Family Business. He would not.

Tomura Shigaraki,” Izuku heard Kurogiri say as he materialized into a solid form. He stood beside Tomura-nii, hands folded together, and if Izuku had to guess, he looked contrite. But Tomura-nii wasn’t looking at him; he was staring at Aizawa-sensei with an eerie amount of glee in his eyes. He looked bloodthirsty in this moment, like the villains that the heroes and civilians accused them of being. Vicious and murderous, even if they didn’t realize the circumstances that their so-called villains had been in to drive them to commit the crimes they accused them of.

“Is Thirteen dead?”

Nobody was supposed to be killed! Izuku wanted to shriek; wanted to scream at Tomura-nii, “What are you doing? This wasn’t supposed to be the plan!” But he stayed silent.

He didn’t want the others to suspect him.

“No. There were some students I couldn’t warp away in time, and one of them managed to escape.”

“Huh.”

The air felt cold. Or maybe Izuku just felt cold. Something about all of this…

“If you weren’t our only way out, I’d kill you with my bare hands, Kurogiri.” There was something unfamiliar in Tomura-nii’s tone, something wrathful. He’d never heard him speak like in that way before, and it distorted his brother into someone he didn’t recognize. He wasn’t supposed to enjoy this suffering and pain, but it was almost like he relished init. “We can’t do anything against dozens of pro-heroes. It’s game-over for now.

“We’re leaving.”

Tomura-nii turned and stalked away. Izuku swallowed.

“Leaving?” Tsuyu whispered. “Did he just say they’re leaving?”

“I think so,” Izuku replied. This was good. It meant that nobody else would get hurt, and they’d be able to get Aizawa-sensei medical help sooner rather than later.

“We’re saved!” Mineta cried, latching onto Tsuyu’s chest like a leech. Tsuyu’s eyes narrowed and she shoved him away.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this, Midoriya. To get up and leave like this all of a sudden…”

If Izuku didn’t know Tomura-nii’s true plans, he would have agreed. But their plan was to topple the castle of cards that Hero Society balanced on, and since All Might wasn’t here… well, that was pretty pointless at this point, wasn’t it? It wasn’t like they could do much if All Might wasn’t here.

“But first, let’s kill some kids.”

Izuku’s heart froze as Tomura-nii abruptly appeared out of nowhere and—

Reached

For

Tsuyu.

“Stop!” Izuku shrieked, a moment too late. What are you doing? You’re not supposed to hurt them! They’re innocent! “Don’t hurt her!”

His hand wrapped around Tsuyu’s face, a split second after Izuku lunged to knock his arm aside.

But nothing happened.

Heartbeats passed by in an eternity.

Izuku stared, blood racing between his ears, drowning out all sound. All he could think was why would you do this, and it wasn’t supposed to be like this. He could barely recognize the man standing before him as his brother. Tomura-nii might be cruel and mean, but he wasn’t a murderer.

And then Tomura-nii chuckled.

“You really are pretty cool, Eraserhead.”

He looked over his shoulder, and Izuku followed his gaze as well, still reaching for Tsuyu. Aizawa had somehow managed to summon the strength to lift his head and lock his gaze with Tomura-nii, canceling out his quirk. And Izuku’s heart soared, because he wasn’t dead, and Tsuyu was fine, but—

But.

If he hadn’t, Tsuyu’s face would have crumbled to dust, if not her entire body. And that hadn’t been part of the plan, the anti-All Might noumu wasn’t part of the plan, this violence and bloodlust wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan. They were supposed to be better than the heroes, but with the way Tomura-nii was acting… it scared Izuku.

“Noumu,” Tomura-nii said. The noumu smashed Aizawa-sensei’s head against the ground.

Oh no! Izuku leapt forward again, grabbing onto Tomura-nii’s shoulders to yank him away from Tsuyu. He made sure to keep away from his hands, knowing that as soon as he touched them, he, too, would start to dissolve.

“Fucking kids! You’re messing everything up for me!” Tomura-nii snarled as he tried to shake Izuku off. His fingers reached around his wrist and he tried prying him off, never completely touching him with all five of his fingers.

“Don’t hurt her!” Izuku screamed, digging his fingers into his collarbone.

“Noumu!” He yelled, and the creature left Aizawa-sensei’s side to pull Izuku off his brother. Izuku screamed, biting noumu’s arm, but the creature didn’t register pain. He was so angry that he couldn’t see anything but red as he tried to scramble away from noumu to jump back onto Tomura-nii.

“Don’t hurt her! Don’t hurt them!” This wasn’t part of the plan! “Stop this!”

BAM!

Izuku stopped. Everyone stopped.

All Might stood at the top of USJ, smoke billowing around him, smile absent and replaced by a scowl. His eyes burned blue, cold and angry and hard, as he looked down at Tomura-nii, and Izuku didn’t know if he was relieved that All Might was here or if he was scared for Tomura-nii.

“Fear not, for I am here.”

He’s not smiling.

In the blink of an eye, he moved from the top of the USJ to the bottom floor. He scooped Aizawa-sensei into his arms and then he leapt back, giving him to Tsuyu and Mineta. The noumu dropped Izuku at a gesture from Tomura-nii, and Izuku’s legs crumpled underneath him. Tomura-nii wrapped his hands around his neck and pulled him to his feet, and Izuku stayed still and silent, glaring at him out of the corner of his eye.

All Might paused.

“This one seems to have taken after you, All Might.” One finger landed on the back of his neck. A second finger fell. Izuku stayed very, very still. “His quirk is similar to yours. A protege of yours? You’re fast, almost too fast to keep track of, but it seems like you’ve slowed down. Are the rumors true? You’re slowing down?”

“Let me go,” Izuku snarled. Tomura-nii shook him roughly.

“You know what annoys me about you heroes? You never know when to shut up and realize that you’re outsmarted.” His finger drummed down on Izuku’s neck, a continuous pattern. A pattern? Izuku wondered. Was he trying to tell him something? But he couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say; he wasn’t using morse code.

“Midoriya—” All Might called out, but he was cut off by the noumu when it descended upon him. Tomura-nii tightened his grip around his neck, pulling him close to his body, and Izuku looked up at him.

“I know you’ve always admired him, ever since we were kids,” Tomura-nii hissed in his ear. “But no hero is worth your admiration. He’d let you die just to salvage his glory. You’ll see.”

“You’re wrong,” Izuku snapped back quietly. “All Might is the only hero who is worth my admiration.”

“Have you forgotten what he’s done to father?”

“Of course not! But at least he stands for something and isn’t in the Hero Business for fame and money.”

“He has more than enough of that.” Tomura-nii smiled nastily. Izuku tried to twist out of his arms again, but failed. Again. “I think you have forgotten. He’s the reason why father is stuck in that mask. He’s the reason why I was thrown to the streets. He’s the reason why our family suffers!”

“You’re own hurt is clouding your judgement.”

An explosion went off, and both of their heads turned. Kacchan leapt out of the smoke with a wild grin on his face, eyes simultaneously battle crazed and razor sharp. Layer upon layer of ice surrounded Tomura-nii’s hand abruptly, so that he wouldn’t be able to move his fingers.

“You’re such a useless Deku, you know that, right? Getting captured by villa—” Kacchan paused for a heartbeat and frowned at Tomura-nii. Something like recognition lit up his face, but then he was moving forward again. Izuku’s heart felt cold, because if anyone recognized Tomura-nii, it would be Kacchan. If he said anything, or suspected anything…

“I’m sorry,I didn’t mean to.” Izuku replied, perhaps a little too casually for the situation. He wrapped his hands around Tomura-nii’s arm and yanked it around from his neck as Kacchan threw a hand in his face, blinding him with a smaller explosion. Kacchan’s hand burned hot as his quirk crackled out of his control, as he yanked Izuku farther away from Tomura-nii, shoving him behind his back, like that would protect him. Like he needed protection from his own family.

“We need to get out of here,” Todoroki said. He exhaled, a small cloud of fog being released.

“Kacchan, Kurogiri’s body is made out of mist.”

“Already on it.” And then Kacchan leapt forward in a torrent of fire and wild grins. He aimed another explosion, this time to propel himself forward, and he grabbed Kurogiri around his neck, pinning him to the ground. Simultaneously, Kirishima leapt forward from behind them, sunk a single foot into the ground, and swung a roundhouse kick at Tomura-nii’s stomach, but Tomura-nii swerved out of the way just in time. Another chunk of ice developed around the noumu, and All Might leapt out of the portal that he was stuck in.

They’re insane.

“If your body was made completely out of mist and physical attacks didn’t work, you wouldn’t have said “that was a close one!”. Don’t move!” He leaned further over Kurogiri, smirking. “If you do anything fishy, I’ll blow you to kingdom come.”

“That’s not very heroic, dude!”

There was a moment’s pause as everyone took in their positions, and then Tomura-nii smirked.

“Kids these days are insane. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Noumu, take out the explosive kid. We need our escape route back.”

The ice around the noumu cracked as he broke his arm off and stood up. His body still moved despite literally falling apart.

“I thought his quirk was shock absorption?” Todoroki said.

“Get back!” All Might shouted, moving in front of them, throwing his arm out. His time limit, Izuku suddenly remembered as he saw the smoke congregate around them. He still had a time limit; he’d probably went past it today.

“I don’t remember saying that’s the only thing he can do. This is hyper-regeneration. Noumu is a super-powered living being designed to take you on with everything you’ve got.”

The noumu moved so fast that Izuku couldn’t follow it with his eyes, but he knew where it was going— toward Kacchan. It jumped around All Might, pivoted in a movement that was unexpectedly graceful, and leapt toward Kacchan—

“Kacchan!” He screamed. And then Kacchan was beside them, looking like he had just stuck his finger in an electric socket. “You dodged that?”

“No, I didn’t!”

All Might stood where Kacchan had a second ago. His eyes were burning, but he wasn’t bowing or bending.

“These guys don’t know how to hold back.”

“Heroes like you piss me off. That plain one over there came at me with everything he had, but violence in the name of saving someone is admirable, is it not? Heroes and villains both thrive on violence, but we’re the only ones who are condemned for it! Symbol of peace? Yeah, right. You’re just a tool to control us. Violence only breeds more violence. I’ll prove it when I kill you!”

All Might laughed, but it wasn’t a nice laugh and it wasn’t a laugh meant to reassure. It was cold. A weapon.

He used his smiles and his laughter like weapons.

“What a load of bullshit. Idealistic criminals have a different fire in their eyes. You’re just doing this for entertainment.”

Izuku stopped.

Stared.

… He really believes this? That we enjoy this?

And then Tomura-nii chuckled. “I guess I really can’t get anything past you.”

What?

Smoke billowed around his silhouette, and Izuku knew that wasn’t a good thing, he knew that he had a time limit slowly dwindling away, but he couldn’t help but stop and stare for a while. Because Tomura-nii was acting like all of this was a game to him, when his friend, people that he had started to care for against his better judgement, were getting hurt. And he enjoyed causing this pain, this kind of suffering.

From that perspective, he could understand why All Might considered all villains to be criminals. It wasn’t like Tomura-nii was trying to do anything different; if anything, he was just digging the hole deeper.

So why would Tomura-nii waste a chance like this to explain where they were coming from?

“It’s three on five,” said Todoroki, and Izuku didn’t understand. Everything was happening to quickly for him to follow.

“These guys are insane, but with us backing up All Might…”

“No, get out of here.” All Might swept his arm out, as if that would shield them from the enemy.

But he’s bleeding, his time limit’s almost up.

“Fear not, and watch a pro get serious.

All Might leapt forward, and Izuku watched as he destroyed the noumu, piece by piece, punch by punch, with a strength that Izuku hadn’t realized he still possessed. Despite his time limit, despite not being at full power… he still went beyond his limits. All to protect them from someone who would harm them, from his perspective.

“Yup, I’m slowing down. Five of those punches would have been enough in my day, but that was over three hundred hits just now.”

He said that so casually, and the usual grin had been restored. Izuku wasn’t sure what to think, what to say; he was frozen. He couldn’t think or move. To think, this was the world of the pros; to think that this was the power his father went against. And Kacchan wanted to surpass this.

“Well, villain, how about we hurry up and finish this?”

Tomura-nii looked angry, his nervous habit of scratching his neck kicking in again. His fingers twitched. “They lied to me,” he muttered, and he sounded unhinged. Has he always sounded this unhinged when he talked about All Might? Or was he just playing a persona? “He hasn’t weakened at all!”

“Well? Are you going to come and get me?” All Might taunted. “If you can take me, then can bring it on!”

He’s bluffing. He was trying to keep Tomura-nii and Kurogiri scared, but he couldn’t do anything. He must have exceeded his time limit. It might be mixed in with the dust, but that looked like the steam when he was about to revert into his true form.

“Well? What’s stopping you?”

“If only we still had noumu,” Tomura-nii grumbled.

“Deku, let’s get out of All Might’s way.” Kacchan said. “We can go help the others.”

“We can still do this; the final boss is still there.”

I’m the only one who knows the danger All Might’s in, Izuku realized. The thought entered his mind with a startling clarity, chasing away the panic that was lurking in the dusty corners of his head. Kurogiri’s mist widened into a swirling dark vortex. If he swallowed All Might…

“Midoriya?” Todoroki said.

What’s Tomura-nii doing? He shrieked inside his own mind. Nobody is supposed to die!

It would only prove the heroes right. If they killed the Symbol of Peace, there would be no shortage of heroes going after his family, thirsting for revenge.

But more than that, Yagi-san had believed in him. He hadn’t compared him to his brother, he hadn’t belittled him, he had given him a quirk and the ability to make a difference. It was more than father had done. He’d treated him with more kindness in a day than Tomura-nii had treated him with his entire life.

He didn’t want Yagi-san to die.

His legs moved before his brain caught up with him. He had to stop Kurogiri, he had to get his weak point—

His legs broke from the pressure of One for All, but the adrenaline numbed the pain enough that he could function. Kurogiri swerved to the side, perhaps to avoid him.

“Get away from All Might!”

Tomura-nii reached for him.

A gunshot fired. Tomura-nii flinched as a bullet sunk into his hand, and Izuku rolled to the ground.

“They’re here!” All Might said, relief in his voice.

“Sorry we’re late,” he heard someone say. “We brought everyone we could though.”

“Ah, they’re here,” said Tomura-nii. “Guess we gotta try another time, Kurogiri.”

As the portal closed around his brother, he looked at All Might with nothing but hatred in his eyes. “I might have failed this time, but the next time we meet, you’re dead, All Might.”

The portal closed.

Tears clouded Izuku’s vision, from relief or sorrow, he didn’t know. All he knew was that he had never felt so helpless in his life; he hadn’t been able to do a single thing.

“That’s not true,” All Might said, and he must have been speaking out loud. Izuku looked up at him, startled by the appearance of his true form. But maybe he shouldn’t be; his voice didn’t have that overwhelming quality in it now. “If you hadn’t given me those extra few seconds, I’d be dead. You saved me. Again.”

A sob broke free from Izuku’s lips and he curled up into himself, the pain finally clouding his judgement. He wasn’t sure what would happen when he got home, for surely his father would punish him for interfering directly with Tomura-nii’s plan, and he’d have to figure out how to explain himself, but that was nothing compared to the sheer relief he felt.

Because nobody had died.

They’d all be all right.

“I’m so glad you’re okay!”

Chapter Text

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: BEGIN AGAIN/EXAMINE YOUR MOTIVES


 

THE world was a vision of white. Something beeped a soothing, repetitive rhythm. Someone was crying, apologizing over and over again. It almost sounded like his mother.

Warmth and darkness beckoned for him, and it was easier to sleep than to force wakefulness; simpler, less dangerous. A moment longer to delay the inevitable, when the day must be faced and decisions must be made. Resolutions and confrontations were to come, but not yet.

It wasn’t his time yet.

He sunk into sleep’s clutches for a while longer.


 

Izuku woke slowly and all at once to the sound of silence. He kept his eyes closed, listening, but for what he didn’t know. Perhaps he was hoping to see his mother; maybe he wanted to talk to Kacchan, though just thinking about Kacchan made his head spin.

He didn’t want to face All Might. More than that, he didn’t want to see his father or Tomura-nii; they had told him nobody would get hurt, and look at what had happened. Aizawa-sensei might be dead, Tsuyu would have been dead at his brother’s hand, and if All Might was any less skilled, Yagi would be dead.

Nobody was supposed to be hurt.

Nobody was supposed to die.

So why were they trying to kill everyone?

The world spun when he opened his eyes. Every part of his body ached. He wanted to go back to sleep.

“Midoriya, my boy?” He heard someone say distantly, voice muffled, like there were several barriers between them. Someone moved, and someone sat beside him, in the chair— Yagi. It was Yagi.

“M’tired,” Izuku said, tilting his head so that he could see him. To verify that he was all right, or that it was all over. He didn’t know the answer. He wished his mom was here in All Might’s place; she would know what to say to make him feel marginally less… shitty.

“I’m afraid Recovery Girl’s quirk has that affect. You had several shattered bones and quirk exhaustion.”

“Why?” he asked. Why would my brother hurt me like this? Why would father use my ideas and twist them into something… horrible?

Nobody was supposed to get hurt.

They were supposed to be better than the heroes.

“Ah… perhaps memory loss is a side-affect. We went to USJ this morning and there was an attack by the villains. You were the most injured aside from Aizawa-sensei, but Recovery Girl said you’ll be right as rain soon enough. We tried contacting your mother, but she wasn’t available.”

Izuku shook his head. Tears stung at his eyes. “No, not that. Why did they hurt my friends, Yagi-san?” It wasn’t supposed to be like this. “Why would they try to kill my friends? They never did anything…” They haven’t done anything to deserve harm.

Yagi was quiet. He wasn’t smiling; but then, when he was in his true form he didn’t smile often. Izuku found it comforting. There was something more genuine about Yagi than All Might. All Might was a pipe-dream, an aspiration, a symbol. He was unreachable, something that was larger than life.

Yagi was present in a way his family never truly was. He never lied to him. He told him that he had worth, that his life could have meaning, and he didn’t compare him to Kacchan, or his father, or his brother, or anybody else.

“Some people become so embittered by the failings of society and their lot in life that they lash out to make others suffer, the same way that they suffer. Other people simply have no regard for human life.”

“I don’t understand how someone can become that way.” Izuku said, but he wasn’t telling the complete truth. Tomura-nii was exactly how All Might described, bitter and angry at the world for no reason aside from the fact that he had a quirk that caused people to turn their backs on him. “Shouldn’t they be helped? Not all villains are bad people.”

“Not all of them are.” Yagi-san said, startling him. He thought that Yagi would argue and tell him that all villains were terrible people. “Villainy is a slippery slope; I’m sure a lot of people feel like they have no choice but to choose that path. But that’s a difference between us, I think. We choose to do what’s right, rather than what is easy.”

“Do you think being a villain is easy?”

“I think it’s easy to become complacent, to not choose to take the higher road and all that. Being a villain though? That’s just a label people use. Anyone who tries to hurt other people for their own selfish gain, to me, is pretty villainous.”

Izuku was getting tired. His brain wasn’t clicking and it didn’t feel like it was processing what Yagi was telling him; he felt like he would understand what he meant if he wasn’t so bone-weary. Or perhaps he wouldn’t understand.

Yagi patted him on his head. “Get a few more hours of shut eye, Midoriya.”

Izuku smiled thinly. Sleep called to him like a siren, and he fell fairly quickly.

The conversation was not forgotten in the future.


 

Masauro-san came to pick him and Kacchan both up when Izuku was released from Recovery Girl’s clutches after she deemed him fit. As always, he was quiet as they jumped into the back of the car. What was unusual, however, was Kacchan’s quietness. 

Kacchan had been quiet when he picked him up in the hospital wing, saying that Auntie Inko wasn’t able to come. Izuku knew why, that something unexpected had popped up in the Family Business and she had to handle it, but he wished she had been the one who had come.

“I’m glad you’re all right, Deku. Jumping in like that to save All Might was stupid.” Kacchan said suddenly, mutinously, and Izuku glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. He was staring out the window, his face twisted into a scowl.

Izuku looked back down at his hands. His useless, powerless hands.

No. Not powerless now. Not since All Might had given him his quirk.

“I’m glad, too.” He whispered.

Because if Yagi hadn’t given him this power, not only would he not have an opportunity to prove his worth, but Asui would be dead, as well as Aizawa. Perhaps more people, too. All of them were just kids, even if they were kids who would one day grow up and become heroes.

Izuku didn’t know what to think.

Masarou-san stopped in front of his home, and Izuku jumped out of the car as quickly as he could get away with. He said thank you and turned to leave. Kacchan watched him. He didn’t say anything, or do anything, but it made the hair on the back of his neck rise.

If anyone could get inside his own head and figure out what was going on, it probably would be Kacchan.

So, Izuku left. He would have run if his body didn’t ache as much as it was, and if Kacchan wasn’t watching. Nobody opened the front door, and his mom wasn’t in the kitchen, so he crept upstairs to his and Tomura-nii’s shared bedroom.

Tomura-nii wasn’t there, but he had laid out several of his favorite shirts and pants on his bed, as if he was packing to go on a trip. A large duffle bag sat on the ground, zipped open, with some books in it and a couple of games. Izuku sat his bookbag down on the ground and curled up on top of his covers in a loose, fetal position.

He fell asleep. Not for a very long time, because he jolted upright when he heard Tomura-nii say his name in a nasty tone of voice. There was a nasty grin on his brother’s face that spelled bad news for Izuku.

“What?” he asked.

“Dinner time!”

Tomura-nii was never this happy about dinner time, since father always insisted on all of them eating together. It made Izuku feel nervous. In fact, Tomura-nii should be in a foul mood because of what he should perceive as a failure at USJ. So why was he not?

“Okay.” He followed Tomura-nii downstairs, rubbing an itch from underneath his left eye with his knuckles. Father was already seated in his place at the dinner table, and mom was levitating the last few dishes onto the lazy Susan.

Izuku took his regular seat and waited for the rice to be placed on the table, staying silent. He didn’t know why he felt like he shouldn’t make any noise. His heart was racing like a jackrabbit. His mouth was parched. He shouldn’t feel nervous around his family.

But he did. He felt like he was walking on a tightrope and he wasn’t sure about the cause, other than Tomura-nii was part of the reason.

The rice was placed on the table. Tomura-nii immediately started serving himself. Izuku poured himself green tea and gulped down half of it immediately.

“Izuku is a traitor.” Tomura-nii said, conversationally, as he scooped up white rice.

What?” Izuku asked, coughing when the tea went down the wrong throat. He put down his chopsticks. “Nii-san—”

“He ruined everything at USJ! He told them that we were coming and they were able to fight against us. And on top of that, he stopped me from effectively neutralizing the threat—”

“You were going to dissolve a girl in front of me and the heroes, Tomura-nii. What did you expect me to do? Blow my cover by doing nothing?”

“That’s bullshit, Deku. You’ve grown to care about them.”

“It’s not my fault you have zero foresight, nii-san!”

“Enough,” father said. The entire room was vibrating, but Izuku didn’t know if it was from his displeasure or mom’s. Izuku snapped his jaw shut; Tomura-nii tensed, practically vibrating from pent-up fury. He wanted to inch away from his entire family, flee back into his room, escape their displeasure and Tomura-nii’s wrath.

He didn’t know what he’d been thinking. He doesn’tknow what he’s thinking now.

“What’s done is done. You’ve had a temporary setback, Tomura, but there is no need to blame your brother for your short-sightedness. Empires are never toppled in a day, nor can they be built. You must be patient.”

Father said nothing else after that, so they continued to eat in silence. Izuku thought he escaped his father’s disappointment, but when he stood up to escape, father said, “Izuku, stay here.”

Tomura-nii and mother left not long after father’s request. Izuku looked toward mom for help, but she only shook her head and avoided his gaze—so, she was disappointed in him, too. It seemed like he had been disappointing everyone lately: Kacchan, father, mother, Tomura-nii. Yagi would be disappointed if he knew.

He should only care about the Family Business; he shouldn’t be having these doubts. Surely everything would be worth it in the end, to liberate society from the chains that bound them. And it wasn’t for entertainment, like All Might thought.

“Izuku.”

“I’m sorry,” Izuku blurted out, hanging his head. He couldn’t keep the words in anymore. His eyes were watering. “I panicked. Tomura-nii scared me. I’ve never seen him look… that angry, so I reacted instinctively.”

He kept his eyes on the floor. Father’s breath rattled. 

“I understand.” Father’s hand fell on top of his head, heavy. “But you must learn to accept the consequences of your actions. Tomura has to leave the house now because the police and heroes recognize his face; he’s been compromised, so he must live elsewhere because you didn’t realize what spying in the bed of the enemy would entail. People will die in this war, Izuku. You must accept this.”

He patted Izuku’s head once more and left him alone in the office. Izuku was glad for it. His face would have betrayed his thoughts—especially when they were this traitorous.

He promised nobody would get hurt.

He had thought this would be a bloodless war. Clearly, either he’d been too ignorant to grasp the full reality of his situation, or he’d been misled.


 

IIDA TENYA    13:04
Hello, Midoriya-san. Aizawa-sensei gave me your phone number because I realized nobody in our class knew how you were recuperating, and we were concerned. I will not share this without your permission or contact you again, but I wanted to make sure you were doing okay and that you got home safely.

MIDORIYA IZUKU    14:21
Hi Iida-san! I’m all right. Kacchan and his dad drove me home, since we live in the same community. My family was angry I was caught up in all that, but I guess that’s understandable. Thank you for checking on me.

IIDA TENYA    14:27
I’m glad you’re back home, even if your family is (understandably) upset that you were in danger. My parents were angry that U.A. had a security breach like that in the first place, but Principle Nedzu reassured them that he was strengthening the security around the school.

MIDORIYA IZUKU    14:30
That’s good! That should reassure a lot of people.

IIDA TENYA     14:31
Yes. I hope so!

 

 

IIDA TENYA    11:19
Midoriya, I know that this might be odd coming from me since we don’t know each other well, but would you like to meet with my brother and I at Dagoba beach? Somebody cleaned it up recently, and nii-san wanted to keep it that way.

MIDORIYA IZUKU 11:21
Sure. When?

IIDA TENYA    11:23
We were going to get there at 12:30.

MIDORIYA IZUKU    11:23
I’ll see you then.


Izuku started jogging to the beach about fifteen minutes after he received Iida’s first text, glad for the excuse to get out of the house. Tomura-nii was packing and leaving tonight, and Izuku felt jumpy. Probably because nii-san gave him this poisonous glare every time they were in the same room.

He arrived at the beach fifteen past twelve, and he didn’t see Iida so he sat down on the pier and stared down at the water. He wished it had the answers to the secrets of the universe. Or, at least, his own questions.

They promised this would be a bloodless war. Did I not listen? Or did I not understand?  

He didn’t know.

He didn’t know…

“Midoriya!” Iida was kicking sand up behind him, leaving a divot in the ground, as he left an older man behind him—presumably his brother, since he had the same body structure and hair color. He stopped in front of Izuku and smiled. “It’s good to see you again. How are you doing?”

I’m already compromised, he realized suddenly. I can’t see the mission objectively anymore if I care about Iida as a friend.

“I’m fine,” Izuku said, faking a smile. “Are you holding up all right?”

If father knew…

He can’t know. Not ever.

“I’m good! I can’t wait to get back to school though, I want to get back on track with training. We have the Sports Festival coming soon.”

“Yeah, I know. Are you worried about that?”

“A little, but I’m going to do my best!”

“Tenya-nii always does,” said the elder Iida, coming up behind Iida—Tenya—and ruffling his hair. He had a smile on his face. “He’s always gone plus ultra and then some. He’s so smart and dedicated to his training. He could have gotten in on recommendations if he wanted.”

“Tensei-nii, stop it.” Tenya aimed a kick at Tensei, but Tensei only laughed and laughed as he jumped aside. “I’m not going to ask you to come next time—”

“All right, all right. Sorry, sorry. I won’t talk about how awesome my younger brother is anymore, then.”

Izuku tried to push away a smile and failed. He used to wish he had a better relationship with Tomura-nii, before he figured that it would be impossible, so it was… nice.

Tensei is pro-hero Ingenium.

He was nicer than he expected, for a pro-hero. Like All Might was nicer than he expected.

“All right, kids. Let’s get to work!”

“I’m not a kid, nii-san!”  

“I had no idea.” He ruffled Iida’s hair and then moved off to the side, where a small pile of garbage had accumulated thanks to the tides pulling it there. Iida huffed.

“Sorry about him. I should have expected him to make a big deal out of nothing…”

“No, don’t be. It’s nice.” Izuku jumped onto his feet, tilted his head back, and smiled at Iida. “I wish my brother was half as cool as yours is.”

“You have a brother? I’ve never heard you talk about him.”

“I don’t really talk about him much. We’ve never gotten along well.”

“That’s a shame. I couldn’t imagine not being able to share everything with my brother. He’s my best friend.”

“It’s not like I can miss what I never had. Besides, I’ve always had Kacchan.”

Iida lifted a rubber tire single-handedly and walked it back to the truck. He had a small, almost unnoticeable frown on his face, but he didn’t look upset—merely thoughtful. Or, at least, that was what Izuku thought.

“You’re childhood friends, right?”

“Mm-hmm. My mom told me that we met at a park and he threw a tantrum when they —our moms, that is— tried to separate us.”

Iida chuckled. “That doesn’t surprise me. He’s so angry all the time.”

“Only on the surface. Plus, he’s angry at me right now.”

“I didn’t want to ask, but… he seems to hate you. I wouldn’t have suspected you were friends for so long, since he’s always calling you Deku.”

“Yeah.” Izuku piled some smaller items of rubbish onto a flat, metal disk. “I deserve his anger though. My quirk manifested late, and I told him I didn’t want to go into Heroics since I was quirkless for so long… so. Yeah. I just hope he’ll forgive me sooner or later; I miss having my friend.”

Iida didn’t respond for a while. In fact, he didn’t respond for so long that Izuku was startled when he abruptly said, “I’m sure he’ll understand eventually. Even if he’s an ass for not listening to you.”

That startled a laugh out of Izuku. He didn’t think he’d ever hear him curse.

“Thanks, Iida.”

Iida smiled. “In the meantime, plenty of people like you. You have no shortage of friends.”

Izuku blinked. He hadn’t realized.

“Oh,” he said.

Compromised, compromised, compromised—the voice in the back of his head taunted.

It sounded a lot like Tomura-nii.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: TETHER/VULNERABLE


 

THE day school started again, Aizawa-sensei gave them the scare of their lives: they only had two weeks to train for the Sports Festival. And he told them this at the end of the day, which meant that in reality, they only had thirteen days to get up to snuff.

Izuku felt faint. He wasn’t looking for internship offers like Kacchan was, who had become noticeably more likely to bite off Kirishima-san’s head (who had apparently started hanging out with him in the few days they had off and now they were friends?), but he didn’t want to do so badly that he’d be noticed. And he wasn’t anywhere close to standing on his own two feet with his quirk. He barely used it most of the time.

So. Panic.

“Hey Deku, do you want to train with us after we get out?” asked Uraraka-san. She popped up in front of him and smiled brightly. “Iida suggested it.”

“S-sure,” he said, startled from being approached. She grinned, held her fist out, and he bumped it. Then he turned around and packed his backpack, squeezing around Kacchan’s space. He didn’t want to get him angrier with him than he already was. And he was already stressed enough as it was without dealing with Kacchan snapping at him.

Though dealing with Kacchan would be the perfect distraction. Tomura-nii was still coming back later in the day and leaving early in the morning, picking up supplies and… whatever else he needed. Izuku didn’t know. He hadn’t been sleeping well, mostly because of Tomura-nii.

He thought he might be having nightmares too, since he kept waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat. But that was just a hypothesis, untested and untried. He couldn’t remember what he was dreaming about at night. Perhaps he just… had a mysterious fever even though his forehead wasn’t hot.

The class cleared out, aside from Iida, Uraraka, and—surprisingly enough—Kacchan. He looked up only to catch Kacchan staring at him, a small frown on his face. Like he was trying to solve a difficult puzzle—and Izuku hoped he never did, because if anyone could topple the castle of cards he’d made for himself, it would be his best friend. When Kacchan realized he’d been caught, which didn’t take long at all, his frown twisted into a sneer.

“You know my number if you do anything stupid,” Kacchan said. He knocked his bookbag into Izuku’s side as he passed. “Don’t do anything stupid, Deku.”

Izuku huffed when Kacchan left the room. Because of course Kacchan would talk in convoluted riddles. He didn’t know if he was concerned over him, or if he didn’t want to deal with his bullshit, or if he wanted to be an accomplish. It would have been the latter just a few months ago, but Izuku doubted that was the case now.

“Sheesh. Bakugou is scary.” Uraraka shivered exaggeratedly. “Did you say you two were childhood friends? Has he always been that way?”

“Are childhood friends,” Izuku corrected. “Kacchan’s always been more bark than bite, but I think he’s stressed right now. Like everyone else, I suppose.”

“He’s definitely got a hair-trigger temper.” Iida pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. He shook his head. “Well, shall we go? Daylight’s wasting away.”

“Yeah, let’s.” Uraraka slapped her stack of books and then pushed them into a bag, which she pulled over her shoulder like they weighed nothing. Perhaps they did. “Some of the lower gyms should still be open, so long the seniors don’t decide they want to use them. Other freshmen won’t be crazy enough to start practicing this early.”

“I wouldn’t put it past some of them,” Izuku said, mildly, as he followed them out. “People here are really intense, Uraraka-san.”

“Oh, there’s no need for the honorifics, Deku-san. Call me Uraraka.”

“And me, Iida.”

“A-ah, okay. Thank you! You can drop the honorifics with my name too.” Izuku smiled at them, even while his heart sank and lodged somewhere in his stomach. He couldn’t get attached to them; he was compromised enough as it was, since he cared about Yagi. How much worse could it become when he started calling them friends? Should he call them friends? Or were they acquittances? “This might be a strange question, but would you consider us to be friends? Or just acquittances?”

“We’re friends, of course,” said Uraraka, lifting an eyebrow.

“I’ve come to consider you to be a friend, Midoriya. There’s no need for you to feel the same way toward us though, of course, so please don’t be pressured by our perception.” Iida replied, simultaneously, gesturing wildly with his arms. He seemed prone to do that when he wanted to make his point, or whenever he was excited.

“A-ah, no. I’m glad we’re friends. All I had growing up was Kacchan.” Izuku felt like a liar. No, worse, he felt worse than a liar. He felt like a fraud.

“Really? Nobody else? Did he scare all the other kids away?” Uraraka sounded surprised. “You’re super sweet, Deku. You should have so many friends you don’t know what to do with them.”

Hah, that’s an idea. Izuku shook his head, ruefully. He felt a little bitter toward his situation all of a sudden. If he wasn’t a spy and if his family weren’t diametrically opposed to all of this… he could see himself growing close to them. Perhaps he might consider them true friends. But that wasn’t the case. He signed up for this.

He was strong enough to handle conflicting interests. He had to be. The Family Business depended on him.

“No, no. My nii-san scared most of the other kids away. Kacchan was the only one… belligerent enough not to listen to him.”

Uraraka laughed. “Why am I not surprised?”

Iida, however, frowned. “Your older brother scared potential friends away? That’s… that seems cruel.”

“It wasn’t nii-san’s fault,” Izuku said hurriedly. He’d screwed up. Shit, this was why he didn’t have friends growing up—he never thought before he spoke. “He’s pretty protective over me, so he comes across as intimidating to most people. So are my parents, honestly. I’m their—”

He cut himself off, shook his head. He was their what? Their blood son? Their trump card?

“I was a miracle child. They weren’t expecting to have me.”

Which, technically, was true. That was why Tomura-nii was adopted originally; to be father’s heir to the Family Business. Izuku was the extra one, the backup. Tomura-nii was the heir, the beloved one. Izuku was…

Izuku was Izuku. He’d always been pushed to the sidelines and left to his own devices for the most part. That was why this chance to prove himself was so precious; he wanted to prove his worth. He didn’t want to be overlooked by father; he wanted mom to look at him and say she was proud of him.

Just once.

Surely that wasn’t too much to ask for?

“They’re… a little overprotective,” he finished, voice cracking. He hoped they didn’t hear it.

Uraraka opened her mouth, and then she closed it. Iida sighed deeply, like he held the weight of the world on his shoulders. Izuku figured he just spilled too much to them and made them uncomfortable; that’s why most other kids ran away.

They always sensed his family was… not normal. Just a little bit off. Kacchan was the oddball out, but maybe that was because Kacchan was a little bit odd by society’s standards. Just self-centered enough to not be too concerned with his family’s affairs or Izuku’s crippling self-confidence issues, but stubborn enough to keep reaching out when nobody else would because…

Well. Izuku still didn’t know the reason for that because.

“Well,” Uraraka said bracingly, “They’ll have to get over that sooner or later. You’re going to be a hero, there’s going to be danger in being a hero. They’ll have a harder time scaring us away. We’re training to be heroes, and we can’t let people down. Too many civilians are depending on us to be examples and keep them safe. Besides, you’re my friend now. I don’t leave my friends behind.”

Izuku’s lips twitched upwards. He was hugging himself, as if he was cold, and he knew he looked defensive. He couldn’t bring himself to change his posture into something more open. He felt rubbed raw, exposed and vulnerable.

“I understand how hard it is to stand in the shadow of your family.” Iida sounded like he was speaking from experience. And he sounded troubled. “You’re brave for doing something they disapprove of.”

Izuku wasn’t brave though. Not at all.

“I… are we almost there?”

His change of subject wasn’t subtle at all, but he didn’t want to talk about this anymore. He was doing the right thing, he knew he was; he was a good son, he knew that they had to expose how corrupt the hero industry was.

“Almost, yes.”

So why did something right feel so wrong?


 

“Izuku!” Father called from upstairs when he closed the front door behind him. It sounded like he was in his office. Izuku hesitated, holding his breath, because he didn’t want to go upstairs when his head wasn’t screwed on straight. In fact, he felt like he had a migraine coming in.

“Come up here!”

But he couldn’t avoid his family forever. Especially not father of all people; father always got what he wanted. He sighed, softly, because he didn’t want his mom to hear him if she was listening to him.

“Coming!” he called back. He took the stairs two at a time; the sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could curl up under his nest of blankets.

He opened the office door and let himself in without knocking, since he’d already been invited. Father was sitting at his desk, but his back was facing him—he was looking at the machines that he had to use daily to keep his health steady. There was stuff back there in addition to the equipment, but Izuku had never been curious enough to ask.

Now, he didn’t want to know.

“Father? Is there something you need me to get for you?”

“I have given a lot of consideration on advancing your education.” Father replied, and it took Izuku a couple of seconds to understand what he meant, because all he could think about were the subjects he took at school. Not anything else. “I believe your argument that the best way to bring in compatriots is to rationally debate and negotiate with them has merit. Therefore, I requested my best spokeswoman to come and teach you what she knows.”

“O-oh,” said Izuku. He didn’t even know anyone in the Family Business beyond Kurogiri, but Kurogiri felt like family practically. “When shall my lessons start, father?”

“Immediately,” said an unfamiliar voice. Izuku turned around. A hard, stern-faced woman stood in the doorway. Her pepper hair pulled back in a tight bun, but she had smile lines around her eyes. “I am Counselor Hirata. I shall be your instructor for the next few months in the noble art of negotiation, as your father has asked.”

Counselor? So she’s a politician? Izuku hadn’t even realized that father knew politicians, or that politicians were affiliated with the Family Business. He wondered how many contacts they had; he wasn’t sure he wanted to know all of them either.

“I—thank you. I’ll try my best!”

The stern lines in her face softened when she smiled. Hirata had a very nice smile, which was probably why she had crows’ feet around her eyes. 

“Good, that is what I ask for in my students. Shall we begin our first lesson in the kitchen downstairs? It is a familiar environment, and I’m told that I am intimidating sometimes.”

“That’s fine with Iron Will and I, of course. Izuku, show the Madam Counselor downstairs, make sure she is comfortable. Mind your manners.”

“I will, father. Come with me, please.”

So, they both went down the stairs and entered the kitchen. He pulled out two glasses and filled them with hot water, placing one of them down in front of the Counselor. He took a sip of his own, watching her over the rim of his cup.

“Your father told me your name is Izuku. You may call me Counselor Hinata. I shall teach you the eloquent art of persuasion until I decide that you have successfully mastered this skill. You, certainly, will be seeing me for several months, if not years.”

“M-ma’am?” Izuku frowned. He’d always been a fast learner; surely this shouldn’t take years. He didn’t have years. He didn’t want this to take years.

She scoffed. “That’s why it’s going to take years, boy. You must be confident or seem confident to an outsider. This is a fundamental pillar you lack.”

“I-I’m sorry!” Izuku would have curled into himself if he didn’t feel very much like an insect being examined under a microscope. Her glare was sharp, and chiding. It reminded him a lot of Aizawa-sensei’s expression.

“That’s going to the first bad habit we correct. Apologies must only be used sparingly, either when you mean it genuinely or when you need to say it to get someone to work with you.”

“I’m—” Izuku bit back on the instinctual sorry that rose from the back of his throat. “Okay. How do I correct bad habits, then?”

She grinned. Her eyes twinkled with a manic gleam that made the hair on the back of Izuku’s neck stand on end. They were blue—her eyes. An ice-like blue color, like the color of the glaciers in the north seas close to Antarctica.

“Perhaps this isn’t as hopeless a case as I feared. Hisashi always asks for interesting favors. What do you think? How do you think you should correct your bad habits?” 

“I’ve heard people use swear jars when they want to stop cursing?”

“Would that be an effective way to stop this bad habit though?”

“Well, I don’t have much spare change laying around, so…”

“You kids and digitalizing everything, even money! If you have a bad habit, then you need to replace it with a good habit.”

“Hmm… I’d have to thing of a way to replace it then…”

“Exactly. Think of a good habit and start implementing it next week.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Oh dear, that makes me feel quite old.” Even though the words would have made Izuku fluster and apologize—which was his first impulse—, he stopped himself and looked at her face. She was smiling. Perhaps that was why she had crows’ wrinkles around her eyes.

Still. “I’m sorry for insulting you, Counselor.”

She sighed. “I’m merely teasing you this time. But at least you thought it through this time. I’m going to stop by next Thursday at seven thirty in the morning sharp and speak with you for thirty minutes. I expect you to be awake and alert. This schedule will not change in the future.”

“That’s fine with me. I wake up early to train anyway.”

“You’re quite dedicated to your role. Good luck in your studies, Izuku. The Sports Festival is in a couple of weeks, right?”

“Yes, it is. And thank you. I know it’s going to be tough.”

She stood up, so Izuku stood up too and bowed. She inclined her head in acknowledgement, and he showed her out the door.


 

Kacchan frowned at him when they met at the usual street corner. “Who was that person at your house yesterday? She looked familiar, and it looked like she had bodyguards.”

“One of my father’s business partners,” Izuku replied. He didn’t know how to explain that he met with a counselor so that she could teach him how to be persuasive without apologizing. So, he could get this explanation. “I don’t really know much about her. I think she’s in politics.”

“Hmm.” Kacchan grunted. They were silent for the rest of the walk, which wasn’t unusual for them now. Izuku missed Kacchan’s boasting about his quirk or fretting about homework, but he didn’t know how to talk to him anymore.

“Are you still angry with me?” he asked quietly, looking down at the ground.

“Yeah.” Kacchan sighed. He sounded wrung out. Or like he hadn’t gotten enough sleep and didn’t have the energy to yell at him right now; at least not when nobody they knew were watching. “I’m still pissed at you for lying to me our entire lives, Deku. I don’t know what I’m more mad about anymore. The fact that you apparently have a quirk after all, or that you decided to go into Heroics despite never being interested before, or that you broke every single bone in your fucking arm because you can’t control your quirk! Twice! Seriously, Deku, what the fuck?”

Never mind. He wasn’t too tired to yell at him. He was just stewing in his fury.

“I don’t have an explanation.”

“No, of course you don’t.” Kacchan snorted, rolling his eyes. “Don’t get in my way. I plan on becoming number one, and I won’t let a cockroach like you bring me down.”

Izuku scowled, also now a little irritated. “It’s not a competition, Kacchan. I don’t even want to be number one anyway!”

“Then why the hell are you at Yuuei trying to become a hero? You’re only half-assing it if you aim for anything less than the top.”

“I’m not—”

“Really?” Kacchan stopped short and looked Izuku in the eyes. Izuku found he couldn’t meet his gaze for too long. “From my perspective, it sure looks like you are. I know when you’re really trying, and I’m not friends with someone who doesn’t realize the gravity of the profession he’s chosen. It’s insulting.”  

After he said his piece, he walked off without even waiting up for Izuku. Not that Izuku had anything to say.

Of course Kacchan would sense his divided loyalties.

Clearly, even though he didn’t know Kacchan very well anymore, Kacchan still understood what made him tick. He didn’t want to think of him as a threat to the operation, but his intelligence was a variable that he’d underestimated. If anyone figured him out…

The sad thing was, he didn’t think he’d be able to eliminate said variable from the equation. Not him, or even Iida or Uraraka now.

Compromised, compromised, compromised.

Chapter Text

 CHAPTER FIFTEEN: MAKE YOUR MARK/AN UNBEARABLE SIGHT

“MIDORIYA, my boy, how are you feeling? You must be nervous…”

“I’m all right, Yagi-san.” Izuku took a sip of his tea and smiled at Yagi-san. “Iida, Uraraka and I have been training hard for two weeks now. All I can do is my best tomorrow.”

“That’s a good attitude.” Yagi-san’s hand shook as he sipped his own cup of tea. That was really all Izuku saw him drink lately—his tea. Perhaps his stomach was bothering him? Izuku didn’t know much about his condition, other than what he had said.

At least he didn’t need to use a respirator to survive like father. At least father could eat solid food.

All Might attacked his father and crippled him, and it should be easy for Izuku to hate him for what he had done to his family—but he couldn’t quite bring himself to. Yagi had been the only person who had given him a chance, when he didn’t have use.

Kacchan, after all, allowed him to stick around because he was smart, but he never believed he could do anything because he was quirkless. Nii-san mocked and belittled him, even though Izuku didn’t know what he’d done to cause him to act so mean toward him. He’d always been that way. Father said that he would help with the Family Business when his time came, but…

But.

These thoughts are… treasonous. If anybody found out…

What was wrong with him? He should feel grateful.

At least mother always believed in him. She fought tooth and nail for him to get a good education, and she didn’t really make him feel like he was less than he was.

“Izuku? Are you all right, my boy?” Yagi-san’s hand was raised, as if he were waving it in his face. His eyebrows were crinkled together, as if he were concerned. Izuku blinked.

“I-I’m sorry, All Might. I wasn’t paying attention. I’m fine, just… worried.”

Yagi-san smiled. It softened his entire face. “Understandable. Try not to stress too much about it though; like you said, you’ve prepared for this.”

“It’s not that I’m worried about, honestly.” Izuku looked out the window, since he found it easier to avoid meeting his gaze. In both forms, his eyes looked exactly the same. It was a little bit eerie.

“Oh? Then what is it?”

I can’t say that I’m questioning why my family does what it does and why it treats me the way they do… so what can I—“Do I apologize too much?”

Well. That worked.

Yagi-san barked out a laugh, which turned immediately into a cough. Izuku yelped when blood gushed out of his mouth, yet again.

“I’m sorry!” He grabbed the box of Kleenexes off the coffee table and handed them at him. Yagi-san wiped the blood away. They sat in awkward silence for thirty seconds.

I’m a conversation killer.

“Well,” Yagi-san breathed out, practically under his breath. He very carefully moved the Kleenexes onto the end table. “Perhaps you apologize a little too frequently sometimes, Izuku. But you certainly could have worse bad habits.”

“Oh.”

He’d called him by his name. His first name, not the family name that he associated with mother and father.

He hesitated, chewing on the bottom of his lip. “Yagi-san?”

“Hmm?”

“Everybody talks so much about going above and beyond to do well in this Sports Festival, since they want first place. But I don’t care about aiming for the top. Is that a bad thing?”

Yagi-san narrowed his eyes. Izuku winced—he shouldn’t have asked that question, but it was nagging at him in the back of his mind, ever since Kacchan had told him he was half-assing it.

Perhaps it was nagging at him because it was true.

“Honestly, all I want you to do is your best. I think you’re fine just the way you are, Midoriya. I wouldn’t have chosen you to be my successor. However, remember that you need to try to get an internship. If everybody around you is trying their make their mark, the other pros will see them and offer a place in their offices.”

Izuku frowned down at the floor. Yagi-san leaned forward and ruffled his hair, making him look up at him in surprise.

“I want you to make your mark too, my boy, but it is your choice. If it’s not your time yet, then it’s not.”

Well.

Perhaps Kacchan was right.

“Thank you for being honest with me.”

He couldn’t half-ass this. It would be insulting to everyone working hard to secure their futures. So what if his was turbulent and thorny with lies? He still had chosen this.

“Of course.”


That night, Izuku sat down in his room with Tsubasa with a brush and a bucket of soapy water, determined to give him a good washing after putting it off for far too long. Tsubasa yelped at him as soon as he noticed what was going on, and hid underneath his bed.

Izuku laughed. He looked quite a lot like a very pitiful dog. “C’mon Tsubasa, baths are good for you. You get clean that way.” He smiled at Tsubasa and held his hand out. “I promise not to get soap in your eyes.”

Tsubasa grumbled and plopped very firmly down on his haunches. Well, Izuku could play the waiting game too then. He stared down Tsubasa, still holding his hand out, waiting for him to come and sniff him like he always had before.

The thing was—Izuku waited and waited, but he never moved. And Izuku didn’t know why, because Tsubasa always came when he called. He never disobeyed him before.

“Tsubasa?” he asked, softly. Tsubasa shifted and then he peaked out from underneath the bedspread, nudging his hand softly with a soft whine building in the back of his throat. His eyes looked sad.

They were brown still, the same shape and color as his old… classmate. Izuku swallowed. His stomach churned as Tsubasa nudged his hand again and again, still whining. He looked so pitiful, so small, like a helpless kid.

No—that was because he was small. He looked sick and underweight, like he wasn’t eating.

If he still could, Tsubasa would probably be crying right now. Izuku felt tears prickling in the corners of his own eyes.

“What’s wrong, Tsubasa?”  

The whining continued. Izuku covered his ears to block it. He’s not in pain. Father promised he’s not in pain.

Tsubasa nudged his elbow. Tears swum in his eyes, blurring his vision.

Just like how father promised nobody would be hurt?

“I-I’m sorry,” he whispered. A sob built in the back of his throat. He didn’t even know what he was apologizing for, just that it felt like he had to. “I’m so sorry. I don’t know what’s happening, Tsubasa. I don’t know what’s wrong. I don’t—I don’t—”

I don’t know how to fix you.

He couldn’t go to anyone because they’d think that Tsubasa was a monster, but he wasn’t. He was sweet, and good mannered, and… like a puppy. He was basically a puppy. An essential part of the family.

So why did something about his new form keep niggling in the back of his conscience?

Tsubasa huffed and licked his face. No, wait, that wasn’t right. The way he moved was too deliberate, targeting his cheeks and not his entire face. He was licking his tears away.

Izuku didn’t understand. Tsubasa wasn’t supposed to have enough cognitive ability to recognize that he was crying, let alone try to comfort him. So how…?

Tsubasa sat there, watching him all too intelligent eyes, before he huffed again, shook his head, and crawled back underneath the bed. And Izuku—Izuku didn’t know what to say, because something about him in that moment was remarkably, almost, human.

Perhaps he’d gone mad. Or maybe this was all a very scary nightmare.

Regardless, bath time was shelved for the night.


The first event of the Sports Festival passed in a blur of noise and chaos, not just because Kacchan had decided to insult all the other classes in his speech. Izuku barely remembered what happened during it, since he’d been so focused on his end objective—to get through the end of the event, without coming in last.

It was difficult. Everyone here had been using their quirks for at least eight or nine years, and Izuku only had his for less than one year. Even the students in the business school had a leg up on him in that department.

So, Izuku had to work smarter than the rest. Because he couldn’t handicap himself for the future events yet; he needed to get through this round and the next, at the very least. So that was what he did—he was smart; that was one of the few things he always had, despite being quirkless.

He made a leap of faith. He ripped a metal plate off the control panel of a robot and he kept a hold of it because something in his gut told him he would need it later. His gut usually was pretty accurate, especially lately, so he listened to it.

A wise choice—He had needed it.

At the end of the obstacle course, there was a minefield. Kacchan and Todoroki had already blasted ahead of him, racing for first place. Other students were also ahead of him, but they weren’t able to fly and thus they set off detonations.

Hmm.

It was a reckless choice, digging through the minefield to build a pile of explosives, but he did it because he was desperate and probably wasn’t thinking straight completely.

Compromised. Tsubasa. Iida. Kacchan. Uraraka. Class 1A. Yagi-san. Compromised.

He had to make his family proud. He had signed up for this; he was strong enough to handle this. This was the only chance he had to prove his worth and he wasn’t about to fuck up now.

Surely his family was in the right. The end would justify the means and all that.

So why was he rationalizing it? He shouldn’t be questioning the righteousness of the Family Business, he shouldn’t be questioning the methods his father used, he shouldn’t question Tomura-nii’s cruelty, because it was all necessary to obtain the objective.

Everything was necessary.

So why had Tomura-nii admitted that he enjoyed it because he enjoyed senseless violence? Was he trying to play a part like Izuku? But then why…

Why was Izuku having such a hard time reconciling all of this?

He slammed the metal plate down on the pile of explosives he had dug up, setting them off simultaneously. He soared through the air, and when he landed on another minefield, he dropped the metal plate on Kacchan, setting off another round of detonations, slowing him down.

That shouldn’t have felt satisfying. It did.

In the end, he received second place, crossing the finishing line seconds behind Todoroki, with Kacchan right at his heels.

The Calvary Battle passed in a similar fashion, though Izuku found himself grateful that he didn’t receive first place. Everyone had locked their sight on Todoroki’s team, clearly out for blood and the points.

He searched out Uraraka and Iida instantly once he heard it was supposed to be a team battle. He would have asked for Kacchan as well, but he knew not to even try when Kacchan was angry with him now.

“Uraraka, do you want to team up with me?”

Uraraka nodded with a smile. “Of course! Do you think Iida will as well?”

“I was going to ask him…”

But when they asked Iida, Iida shook his head and bowed apologetically. “I’m sorry, Midoriya, but I want to go against you. You’re my friend, but you’re also my rival, and I want to grow from this experience.”

Oh, Izuku realized, watching as Iida walked away without hesitating, ultimately joining up with Todoroki’s team. So this was what Kacchan meant when he said everyone was giving it their all.

“Aw, I’m sad he won’t join up with us. It would have been fun.” Uraraka sighed and then she smiled brightly. “That’s fine. We’ll just have to find two other people then.”

“Yeah! Hmm, I wonder…”

In the end, they joined forces with a girl with a half-crazed gleam in her eyes whose name was Mei Hatsume, and Tokoyami. There was a frantic, desperate edge to the second event that Izuku only half understood, as they stayed back to defend their points as everyone else went after Todoroki, or as they stole points from unsuspecting targets when it was convenient.

Just as quickly as it started, it was over, and the noon break was announced. Uraraka sighed in relief.

“Thank God, I’m so hungry,” she mumbled. “You coming with, Deku?”

“Um—” He shook his head regretfully. “I want to call my mom and talk before the one on one battles.”

“Ah, okay. Do you want me to grab you something before all the good stuff’s gone?”

“That’s all right! I have some katsudon. Thank you though!”

“That sounds delicious.”

“Not as good as Kacchan’s, to be honest. It’s not fresh.”

“Bakugou can cook?”

“Yeah. His food is amazing.”

They parted ways and Izuku slid into the breakroom, pulling his backpack out of his locker and grabbing the katsudon that he’d made for himself last night. He heated it up in the microwave, sat down, and took a bite out of it.

Tasted pretty good, if he did say so himself. Even if it was a little bland, and maybe the bun was a little undercooked, and the vegetables were a little hard. And the rice was undercooked.

He wanted to cry a little on the inside; this was his favorite meal and he butchered even this. There had to be a way to fix it, or learn how to do this better. Perhaps he should get his mom to teach him after the Sports Festival during their free weekend. She probably would be happy that he was showing an interest.

Or maybe she wouldn’t care.

The door opened, startling Izuku badly enough to drop his chopsticks. He looked at the door, where one of his classmates stood, Todoroki Shouto. Father had told him a bit about Endeavor’s son, how he had a perfectly split quirk of fire and ice, while Izuku had noticed that Todoroki seemed so quiet and serious all the time. His resting face never gave away any emotions.

At least not until now. His jaw had dropped slightly and his eyes were wider than usual, just a little.

“I’m sorry,” said Todoroki. “I’ll leave you to eat your lunch in peace.” He began to close the door, and Izuku called out impulsively.

“No, don’t. It’s fine. It’s always nice to have company, right?”

Todoroki frowned. “We’re rivals.”

“Does that mean we can’t have a friendly conversation?”

“No. I suppose not.” Todoroki stepped into the room and crossed over to the microwave, holding a lunch bag close to his chest. Izuku continued eating his katsudon in silence, scrolling through the Hero News on his phone. It felt like he was waiting for something, though he didn’t know what.

“Are you All Might’s illegitimate son?”

Izuku choked.

What?” he gasped around the bun. Out of all the things that Todoroki could have assumed… why the hell would it be that? He didn’t understand. How could he and All Might be related? That was—“No! Of course we’re not—why would you think—”

His brain was moving faster than his tongue, causing him to splutter over his words. Todoroki looked unaffected, simply blinking at him and sitting across the table.

Me? All Might’s son? What a wild idea.

It was better than Todoroki asking if he was related to All for One, not that he should even know about his father, or if he was related to Iron Will… but still. It was… he didn’t understand?

“Really? Your quirk is so similar to his that I thought you might be related.”

“U-uh,” and now Izuku was panicking because this was Yagi-san’s secret, not his. And if Todoroki started digging into it, he might learn about his family’s history, and about father, and—oh, God. He could feel a panic attack building in the back of his mind, but now wasn’t the time to have one. “Wow, isn’t that weird?” He tried to laugh, but it came across as high-pitched and shaky.

Todoroki looked unimpressed with his masterful skill at lying. “You’re a terrible liar. I’m impressed nobody has figured it out before now.”

“B-but he’s not my dad.”

Yeah, great going, Deku. Next time he had to report to father, he could tell him that he accidentally convinced Todoroki that All Might was his father. Father would be impressed with his progress.

“It’s all right. I understand what it’s like, having a top pro hero for a father. The pressure is unbearable.”

“I—Todoroki-san, you’re really mistaken, I’m sorry.”

Todoroki huffed and closed his eyes. “I know you’re aware that my father is Endeavor.”

“You’d have to live under a rock not to be.”

“I’m making a declaration of war. My old man is the number two hero, and since you’re connected to All Might, that’s all the more reason to crush you.”

Izuku had never been more unsettlingly aware of his own heartbeat in that moment. The tenuous muscle throbbed, feeling less like a metronome clicking away at a constant, steady beat and more like a nervous song tapping to itself. Like the kind people hum or tap to when they were in complete darkness, as if to casually remind the outside world I’m here, I’m here, I’m still here.

“My father is a right bastard, only caring about power and becoming stronger. Even though he’s at the top, he’s always seen All Might as a roadblock to his path to success and an eyesore.”

Izuku breathed out shakily. Ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom, went his heartbeat. “Why are you telling me this, Todoroki?”

Todoroki opened his eyes. “Have you heard of quirk marriages?”

Oh no.

Ba-bam, ba-bam, ba-bam. He could hear his heartbeat in his head, in-between his ears, could feel it in his fingertips and his toes. A lead weight sank in his stomach.

“They were a problem during the second and third generation,” Izuku whispered, unable to stop himself. He wanted to, but he couldn’t. “Strong individuals chose their partners based on their quirks and forced them into marriage for the sole purpose of passing down a stronger version of their quirk.”

He didn’t have to say the rest—how rape ran rampant and social scorning, how money passed hands between politicians and judges, how the general lack of ethics in those generations had led to the rising of quirk marriages. Villains and heroes hadn’t existed at the time; they were simply bad people who did terrible, horrible things.

“With his wealth and fame, my father convinced my mother’s family agree to a marriage. All so that he could get his hands on her quirk and pass it down. He raised me to be a hero to take down All Might.”

And suddenly, with the most amount of emotion that Izuku had heard from the boy, he cried out in a gut-wrenching voice that sounded like he was on the verge of tears, “I hate it! Being a tool for that man’s madness, for his decades old grudge!”

Izuku’s mouth was dry.

Ba-bam, ba-bam, ba-bam.

It was so easy to understand that desperate, furious tone of voice. He heard it in Tomura-nii sometimes, when he was furious at Izuku for existing and desperate for father’s approval.

Todoroki lifted his hand and covered his scar. “Mom was always crying. ‘I can’t stand that left side of yours,’ she said, before throwing scalding water in my face.”

Izuku’s stomach churned so violently that he covered his mouth in case bile rose in the back of his throat. Fury made him want to lash out; he hated, he had never truly wished anyone harm until in that moment, but suddenly he intimately understood Tomura-nii’s hatred toward heroes. He understood why Hero Society had to be taken down.

If this was what was tolerated, if Endeavor could get away with this kind of child and domestic abuse, and they didn’t do a thing about it, when Endeavor was second strongest hero, keeping up with All Might himself despite All Might’s legacy-like strength—

He wanted Endeavor to suffer. He wanted him to hurt. He wanted to tear him down.

It’s wrong, wrong, wrong, how could he be lauded as a hero when he’s done such terrible things, what’s wrong with the Todoroki family—

“By refusing to use my father’s quirk and rising to the top without it, I deny him everything.”

They lived in completely different worlds. It scared Izuku, to know that it was possible for this kind of evil to hide in plain sight. It scared him more than Tomura-nii killing, it scared him more than disappointing father, it scared him more than the heroes discovering him, and it scared him more than Kacchan ever had.

How had he ever doubted his family’s ideals? The reasons why his family was doing this?

“Sorry for wasting your time.” Todoroki stood up, shoulders slumped, and walked out of the room with his hands in his pockets. “Keep your relation to All Might to yourself. I’ll overcome you with just my right side.”

Izuku watched him go.

He didn’t know how to respond to a story like that.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIXTEEN: THE PRECIPICE/POINT OF IGNITION

Ignition Point: The minimum temperature at which a substance will continue to burn without additional application of external heat.


 AT the end of the break, Izuku went outside and sat down in-between Uraraka and Iida. It was effortless and automatic, how they shifted to make space for him, despite their argument about the line-up and why Ojiro and the kid from class 1-B had stepped down. Iida said that it was noble that they had stepped down when they felt like they hadn’t earned their spots, Uraraka argued that Shinsou should have been disqualified.

“I disagree,” Izuku interrupted, politely, leaning forward and looking out at the field. “Just because Shinsou has an undesirable quirk doesn’t mean he should be disqualified, even if what he did was ethically dubious. I’d bet he’s trying to get into the heroics course, but his quirk was ineffective against the robots at the entrance exam. Some villains can’t be taken down through brute force alone; you have to be cunning.”

A pause.

Uraraka and Iida were looking at him like he was something very unexpected. Or like he was somebody that they didn’t know. Izuku worried his lower lip, wondering if he had said too much by accident again.

He didn’t think he was thinking clearly right now, so he didn’t know how rational his judgement was. He wanted someone to burn, preferably Endeavor. He wanted someone to be punished, also preferably Endeavor.

“That’s astute,” said Iida, softly. “It wouldn’t have occurred to me until later today.”

Izuku bit back a smile at the compliment. He wasn’t sure if this was an appropriate time to smile, but it made him very glad, being acknowledged. Father and mother didn’t do it very often at all. In fact, he didn’t remember them ever truly acknowledging him until recently.

“Man, Deku’s so smart,” Uraraka sighed loudly. “It’s no wonder you’re one of the top of our class.”

“A-ah, but I’m not even in the top three.”

“Not this semester, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you are next semester. Everybody studies so hard.”

“I’m not sure if I’ll ever be as dedicated as Kacchan is to his studies. He makes his own courses during the summers to get ahead and review.”

“What? Seriously? That’s insane!”

Izuku smiled slightly. “Maybe a little. But Kacchan’s super cool like that. He’s always gone plus ultra about everything, you know? Ever since we were kids.”

Uraraka looked bemused, but she nodded silently, obviously accepting his explanation. It wasn’t like she could argue with him about it though; it was pretty obvious that Kacchan was driven and ambitious.

“Looks like you’re facing Hatsume, Iida.” Uraraka said, pointing at the line-up board. “And… oh no.”

Izuku looked at the board and winced. Uraraka vs. Bakugou. That was pure bad luck.

“I’m going to die,” Uraraka whimpered.

“No, you’re not.” Izuku replied instantly. “Kacchan’s crazy but not that crazy. He won’t hurt you too badly… probably.”

“That’s reassuring,” Iida muttered. Uraraka socked both of them in the shoulder, which, granted, Izuku deserved for the addendum he muttered under his breath. He wasn’t sure if Iida deserved it, since Uraraka punched hard.

“You’re definitely going to have a tough opponent too, Deku.”

“Really? Who am I up against?”

“Shinsou!” Uraraka sighed loudly, dropping her face into her hands. “Wow, I’m so nervous and you didn’t even look for yourself up there. I’m almost mad.” She laughed a bit ruefully here, and Izuku rubbed the back of his head nervously.

Honestly, he didn’t mean to not take it seriously; he didn’t, he truly didn’t, like Kacchan assumed of him. It was just… he was a bit preoccupied.

He just couldn’t stop thinking about what Todoroki said. It kept bouncing around his head, on and on, nonstop, like a broken record. It made him angry, just thinking about it, and the more he brooded, the more upset and distracted he felt.

He had to pay attention, but how could he right now?

“Well,” Izuku breathed, “It looks like we’re going first according to the roster.”

“Good luck!” Uraraka said, immediately, and then she flushed. “Wait, that came across as rude, didn’t it? It’s just… he seems really scary. But I’m sure you have a plan to beat him!”

Izuku felt slightly nervous, but he nodded. “I have an idea, but I’m not too confident in it, so I feel like I need all the luck I can get! I wish I knew what his quirk was…”


As the time neared for Izuku to leave the stand, he started to feel increasingly jumpy, especially when Ojiro came up to him and warned him not to respond to any of Shinsou’s taunts. He couldn’t keep himself from bouncing his leg, so he got up and went downstairs to pace without having the eyes of his classmates on him.

Or father’s spies.

He wished Yagi-san was here, so he could talk to him and distract himself, but All Might was sitting with the judges. Not that he neededto talk to him right now—it just would be nice. A way to off-set his nerves.

Perhaps he could call mom, but she was always busy this time of day, so he didn’t want to distract her. Calling Father and Tomura-nii was completely out of the picture. He didn’t want to talk to Kacchan right now, because Kacchan would see straight through him and figure everything out.

So. He paced, trying to talk himself down. He hoped he would do well.

Kacchan was right. He couldn’t half-ass this. Not if he wanted to walk the shadows successfully.

Still, every time he thought about Endeavor, and what he had done to his family…. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Endeavor was notorious for being incredibly private about his family, while also showcasing that he had a family at all. How had nobody in the hero association asked questions about how trained Todoroki was? How could nobody ask questions about Rei Todoroki and why she was in a mental institute?

Why did nobody question anything?

“Welcome back, listeners!” Present Mic announced over the loud speakers, startling Izuku into the present. “Next up, we’re going to have our first match for this round, the explosive powerhouse from the Heroics Course, Midoriya Izuku vs. Shinsou Hitoshi, the mysterious wildcard from the General Course! Let’s give them a round of applause, yeah?”

Izuku took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, steeling himself. You got this, Izuku. Just do your best!

He could do this. Yagi-san told him to do his best, so he would. He wasn’t going to try to make his mark like everybody else because he’d draw too much attention to himself, but he would try his best. It was as simple as that.

Perhaps it was half-assing this festival, not going beyond, plus ultra, like everyone else was. But he couldn’t do anymore than he was able to do, and this was what he was able to do.

They walked onto the field, and Izuku looked at his opponent. Shinsou Hitoshi was a tall boy, which might have been intimidating if his eyes didn’t look tired and desperate.

Still, he couldn’t afford to underestimate him. He couldn’t afford to underestimate anybody in this tournament; he was in a perilous balancing act as it was, between trying to avoid drawing attention to himself while simultaneously trying to make it look like he was trying to get it.

“Good luck,” said Shinsou.

“Thank you—”

Izuku couldn’t move a muscle, not even to twitch. A smirk played at the corners of Shinsou’s lips. His quirk… he must have some kind of quirk that can control people, one that’s activated when someone spoke.

He’d underestimated him.

“It must be nice, having a quirk that lets you do anything you want without a villainous stigma attached to it.” There was something in Shinsou’s tone that sounded—condescending. He opened his eyes and looked at Izuku. “Turn around and walk out of the boundary.”

Izuku’s body moved without his permission.

No, no, no, no, no! Izuku tried to stop himself, tried to twitch a muscle in the opposite direction. But he took one step after another, and he couldn’t stop himself. No, my head’s so fuzzy, I mustn’t—I can’t—no

He stepped over the boundary line.

“Aaaaannnd Midoriya’s out! What an anti-climatic start of the event!”

Tears stung in Izuku’s eyes as he stared at the ground, even though Shinsou released his hold on him. He could move on his free will now, but what good was that when he had failed so badly? He hadn’t even used his quirk once… there was no way any of the heroes would offer him an internship after this.

Father would be angry with him. Yagi-san would probably be disappointed.

“I’m sorry,” said Shinsou, coming up behind him. “You lucked out by having a quirk suited for the entrance exam, but I didn’t. This is my best, maybe only, shot to get into the hero course.”

Izuku rubbed underneath his eyes as he and Shinsou left the arena and entered the private waiting area. Nobody else was around.

“You know,” Izuku said, rubbing his arms. “Some people have these amazing quirks that are good and perfect for heroics, but they use them for terrible things.” That was why all of this was so hard, because of heroes like Endeavor. And he couldn’t turn his back on people like Todoroki; how many kids had been hurt by their parents with perfect quirks? “So I don’t think it’s about the quirk, but what you do with it. Good luck, Shinsou.”

He didn’t know what else to say, other than he felt bitterly disappointed that he had failed so badly. He didn’t trust himself to say anything that wasn’t mean or resentful, so he kept his mouth shut, and waited for Shinsou to round the corner. He turned right, in the opposite direction, and sniffled.

He hated how much of a crybaby he was. He wasn’t even trying as hard as everyone else, he wasn’t as desperate to make a good impression, so why…

Maybe he was upset because father would have words with him later.

“Midoriya!” Yagi-san bumped into Izuku as he rounded another corner, and Izuku stared up at him, mouth agape. His eyes burned. “My boy, why are you crying?”

“I failed,” Izuku whispered, bowing his head to hide his tears from his mentor. “I didn’t even last through the first round. I’m really sorry, Yagi-san.”

Yagi-san didn’t say anything, which Izuku was expecting. After all, father wouldn’t have said anything to him if he disappointed his so badly. He should have done better, be better, but he hadn’t—he’d been overconfident. And that had been his downfall.

All Might sighed, and then he knelt down to Izuku’s level, and gathered him in his arms. Izuku froze, because… well.

He couldn’t remember the last time somebody had hugged him. Especially not when he had fucked up and crying like a baby over it.

“You tried your best, and that’s everything that I can ask for.”

Izuku didn’t know what to say, so he hid his face in Yagi-san’s shoulder. Because he was a failure, he hadn’t even met the basic expectation of his family or Yagi-san, so how could he deserve any modicum of affection? When he didn’t get his quirk, mom had told him she was sorry and hadn’t touched him for months. When Tomura-nii got his quirk and dissolved the first house, mom and father both didn’t touch him for even longer than him. It was the way it was.

You simply don’t disappoint your superiors. If you do, then you must find a way to repent properly and apologize.

Izuku didn’t know what to say in this situation, because he could never have comprehended that Yagi-san wouldn’t mind. So, he didn’t try to understand, and he didn’t say anything, because there was nothing for him to say in the first place.

Instead, he just took a deep breath, tried to get rid of the tension in his body, closed his eyes, and wrapped his arms around Yagi-san’s waist in response.

He didn’t understand. And he didn’t know what he was angry about.


After they parted ways, Izuku made his way back down to the stands to sit with Iida and Uraraka. Uraraka patted him on the shoulder consolingly, and Izuku had to steel himself against flinching away from the skin on skin contact. Everyone was touching him today, and it was so strange. He should be shunned, punished, for being such a failure.

He didn’t know why. He wasn’t a normal kid, he knew his parents raised him differently from the rest, so perhaps this was something that normal people did.

Perhaps they tried to hug people when they failed. He’d always thought that most people yelled when somebody failed; or at least, that was what it looked like on television.

He didn’t understand.

Heroes were supposed to be frauds and villains were supposed to be misunderstood. And yeah, some heroes were frauds—Endeavor had hurt his own family; had torn his family apart; had destroyed Mrs. Todoroki—but then there was All Might, who… was not a fraud, simply put. There was Shinsou, who desperately wanted to be a hero despite having a quirk that made society label him as evil. There was Tomura-nii, who taunted him and threatened him and tried to kill Asui-chan.

He just didn’t get it.


Katsuki was itching for a good fight. And yeah, Uraraka had given him one—definitely nearly caught him by surprise at the last moment with the rocks nearly crashing on them, but he wanted to fight the strongest among them. Which was, indisputably, Todoroki, as much as it galled him to admit it.

He would have liked to fight Deku, but Deku was an idiot who opened his mouth when the smooth-tongued bastard clearly had some kind of mind-control quirk. Which made him angry because Deku was smarter than that.

Stupid. He wasn’t even trying to look like he was trying anymore. He didn’t understand what the fuck was going on with him. Deku was usually better at lying than this; Aizawa would eventually expel him if he didn’t get his head screwed on straight, and then where would all his dreams go?

If he had any. Katsuki still didn’t understand why he’d applied for heroics of all things.

He took a deep breath to calm his raging temper. When that didn’t work, he got up and paced around the table; nobody was here to witness him feeling unsettled, so he didn’t bother with trying to pretend to be otherwise.

At some point, Todoroki’s name showed up again on the screen, and it showed that he had beaten Shinsou Hitoshi—the bastard. Good. At least this would be an interesting fight; that halfie better use both sides of his quirk though. He wouldn’t stand it. It wouldn’t be winning indisputably if he did not use it.

He had to beat Todoroki at his best.

So he would. There was nothing else to it; he would go at Todoroki and make him give it his all, because… because. Because he just would.

They met on the stage and the world waited. Katsuki held his breath and then let it go; he was born for this, he wasn’t afraid. This was a mere step on the staircase to becoming the top hero.

“Good luck,” said Todoroki, face unreadable, which he hated. Katsuki wanted to wipe that smug expression off it. He should at least show something, even if it was simple overconfidence.

“I don’t need luck,” he spat back at him. He made his own luck.

A heartbeat passed. Then the bell rang, signaling the start of the match.

Katsuki sprung forward, swerving out of the way of a block of ice. Tacky and slow; Katsuki was faster than an iceberg. He leapt into the sky, shattering the tendrils of ice that tried to wrap around his feet.

He was on top of Todoroki in seconds, swinging his arm back and throwing his fist toward his head. Todoroki threw his arm up, blocking him expertly.

“Fight me at your full potential, bastard!” Katsuki shouted, dropping one leg onto the ground. He threw a roundhouse kick at Todoroki. Todoroki caught his leg with a grunt and tried to freeze his calf, but Katsuki yanked it out of his clutch in the nick of time.

“You talk too much.”

“Fuck you!” Katsuki screamed, seeing red. Todoroki tried to capture him in another one of those glaciers he was oh-so fond of, but Katsuki blew it up before he could be trapped. “Stop half-assing it!”

“I’m going to become a hero without using that man’s power!”

“Oh, shut up with the sob story already, would’ja?” Katsuki balanced on the ground for a split second, and Todoroki tried to trap him again—but then he was leaping forward again, propelled by bursts of explosions so that he could fight him head-on. “It’s your own power, damn it! So use it and stop looking down on me!”

Todoroki’s eyes widened and a spurt of flame spluttered to life. Katsuki grinned, heart leaping.

“HOWTSER IMPACT!”

Come at me—he thought, and he would have screamed it if it hadn’t taken so much time, so much energy, so much breathcome at me with everything you’ve got!

As Katsuki collided with Todoroki, the flame vanished—he’d pulled it back? But why? Why did he snuff out the fire? Katsuki couldn’t stop himself from finishing the move; doing so right now would cause too much backlash on him, but his mind raced as Todoroki fell.

“Huh?” Katsuki barely whispered; more like an exhale. He pushed himself onto his feet. “What? S-stop messing around!” Not like this, not like this—I don’t want it like this—this isn’t fair—I want to win—“C’mon, hey! C’mon, fight me with everything you’ve got, dammit!”

His eyelids were so heavy. Why was he suddenly having such a hard time keeping his eyes open?

He stumbled.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Midnight walk up to them.

Oh. Of course.

They always tried to control him, one way or another.


Katsuki woke up slowly. Like he was coming out of a deep sleep, which was unusual for him because he was a light sleeper. He usually was instantly awake.

Aizawa was sitting in the chair next to the bed, a pair of reading glasses perched on his nose as he marked a pile of papers with a red pen. He wasn’t in his sleeping bag for once, and his hair was pulled back. It was kind of hilarious to see the man look somewhat presentable.

“You’re awake.” Aizawa remarked tonelessly, flipping the page. Essays; those looked like essays. Was he grading the essays they submitted last week?

“I don’t want it.” Katsuki said. His head was kind of all foggy and he couldn’t really remember much, but he was not going to accept an award that he had not earned by his own merit. Not when he had practically half-assed that fight thanks to the half-and-half bastard not doing anything.

It shouldn’t have been easy.

Aizawa peered over the rims of his glasses and raised an eyebrow. “Don’t want what?”

“The award for winning.”

“You realize that you’re declining potential internships, right? You’d be forfeiting first place. I thought you wanted to win.”

“Not like this!” Katsuki spat out between gritted teeth. His eyes burned. He looked at Aizawa, pleading with him, wishing that he would understand. That someone would fucking understand where he came from and didn’t just assume, for once. “Todoroki gave up. I didn’t win first place.”

Aizawa sighed like he was the woe of the world. “I suppose you wouldn’t just quietly accept it, would you? I don’t think there’s been a student in U.A. history that has declined a reward.”

“I won’t accept it,” Katsuki repeated. Aizawa closed his eyes, sighed, and stood up.

“Very well. I will talk with Nedzu.” He stared at him for a long moment, eyes hard, and Katsuki frowned up at him. It was an automatic response, because teachers used to look at him like that all time growing up. Like they couldn’t quite understand him, and so they labeled him as dangerous and violent because they were scared of him. Except Aizawa didn’t look scared.

“What?” Katsuki demanded, once Aizawa kept looking at him like that for way too long, instead of going to talk to Nedzu.

“You’re going to be a problem child.”

Katsuki blinked, because there was something almost fond in Aizawa’s tone of voice, which was weird because that wasn’t supposed to be a thing. Aizawa walked away without offering any additional explanation.

So, Katsuki laid there for a while, and eventually relaxed back into the pillows when nobody seemed to come around to drag him out to accept an award after a while. Fuck, he hated Todoroki. Well, no, not really. He didn’t really hate him. He just pissed him off.

Why the fuck did nobody understand what it meant to be a hero?

“Kacchan?”

Great. Exactly who he wanted to see.

“Go away, Deku.”

Deku, predictably, didn’t go away. Instead he walked into the room and sat down in the chair Aizawa vacated. Figured; he’d been trying to get rid of Deku for years, but he stuck on to you like a koala bear or something of the sort. Except less cute.

Where was Recovery Girl when he needed her? Wasn’t she supposed to chase visitors out of the room so that he wouldn’t overexert himself or some shit like that?

“Nedzu said you declined your reward. And then Todoroki declined his on the stage. So Tokoyami, Kirishima, and Shinsou got first, second, and third place respectively.”

“What the fuck?” Katsuki asked, bewildered, because Todoroki? And then Shitty Hair and that two-faced liar? Deku chuckled, but it sounded watery.

“Yeah. Uraraka said the same thing.”

They sat in silence—blessed, sweet, sweet silence—which was a rarity coming from Deku. Katsuki waited for him to open his fat mouth, because he wouldn’t be able to help himself.

“Why’d you do it? I thought you want to win.”

Kacchan huffed in frustration. “Not like that.”

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

“Deku, don’t start with that bullshit. You’ve known me since we were kids. Of course you’d understand.” Someone had to understand him without him having to spell it out, even if it was shitty Deku of all people. Because Deku was supposed to understand; he had all those creepy books on him for a reason.

“No, Kacchan, I really don’t understand. I don’t… I don’t really understand much of what you do anymore.”

Tears stung in Katsuki’s eyes and he turned so that his back was facing Deku. Sure, it was stupid, but Deku was Deku and he didn’t want him to see his tears.

He wasn’t crying because he was sad—he never cried when he was sad. He was angry and frustrated, and he had always cried when he felt like this. Probably because Deku was rubbing off on him.

“It pisses me off, you know? How everyone’s supposed to be trying to be top heroes, but they’re only half-assing it. You, Todoroki, Yaoyorozu. It’s so infurating. You can’t half-ass things when you’re a hero; if you do, people die. You die. The villains win. The end. I don’t get why they’re not giving it their all.”

“Oh.” Deku said, softly.

Yeah. Oh.

They sat there in silence for a long time, neither of them trying to make a move to break it. Katsuki wanted to get up and walk away, but he still felt dizzy, so he stayed put, sitting on the bed. He swung his legs though.

It was so frustrating. Deku irritated him, but at the same time, it was nice just not talking to Deku. And it felt like he finally understood where he was coming from, which was nice after not talking to the damn nerd for… since forever, it seemed. Deku had gone quiet their last year of middle school, and then the entrance exam happened, and then he was at U.A. and everything else spiraled out of control.

It still pissed Katsuki off though. Why was Deku even here? He didn’t know what he had gotten himself into, clearly, since he couldn’t see Katsuki’s line of reasoning.

Deku used to be smarter than this. Or, at least, he used to be able to read between the lines and understand him in a way Katsuki didn’t. But now that was all gone and they were virtually strangers.

Had been strangers, really, since the moment Izuku decided to apply for U.A. and kept it from him. Did he think that Katsuki would have tried to stop him? Sure, maybe he would have scoffed at him for choosing heroics; he might have even tried to convince him to apply for General because it just made more sense.

Deku wasn’t meant to be a hero, and not just because he didn’t have a quirk. He’d always been too quick to see the good in people and too quick to defend villains; he should have gone into something like law or politics or activism or something like that. Not heroics, where they caught the bad guys and that was that.

Katsuki saw the world in black and white. But Deku—Deku saw gray in everything.

“Maybe we haven’t figured that out yet, Kacchan. Not everyone’s as smart as you are.” Deku said quietly.

It stung.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: CARRY THAT WEIGHT/CASTLE OF CARDS

IZUKU flinched when he heard father’s footsteps coming up the stairs. Worrying at his bottom lip, he tried to ignore the way his heart raced and wrung out the towel into the wash bucket full of dirty water. The bathroom was soaked and messy with Tsubasa’s fur, but they had told him to do this. So, he would.

Tsubasa looked up at him with big, big eyes and made a humming sound in the back of his throat, almost as if he was purring at him. No, he was purring at him, trying to calm him down; he just didn’t have the right type of muscles for it.

Izuku tried to smile.

“I-it’s fine, Tsubasa. I’m fine. It’s just father. He’s not going to hurt me.” At least, not physically. When he got back two nights ago, father had grabbed him by his arm and thrown him into the basement. He’d left him there overnight without food or water, and Izuku had a hard time sleeping since it had been so cold, and his stomach felt like it was trying to flip inside out and rake invisible, long fingernails across it.

Mother let him out the next morning, made him breakfast, and sent him up to his room with Tomura-nii. Tomura-nii hadn’t shown his face to gloat, but Tsubasa had hidden underneath his breath and only came out to lick the tears off Izuku’s face.

So. It could have been worse. At least they hadn’t taken Tsubasa away.

The door swung open and Izuku leaped onto his feet. He spun around. Father sat down on the edge of Tomura-nii’s bed, and it must have been a good day because the oxygen mask wasn’t covering half his face and he was able to walk.

“Is there anything you want from me, father?”

“Your break ends tonight and you return to your school tomorrow morning. I hope you have thought carefully about the consequences of your actions.”

“I have. Failure isn’t tolerated and I need to stop freezing up at opportune moments.”

Father shook his head. “No, fail, if you must. You didn’t try, Izuku, and that’s why I’m disappointed in you. Your mother and I will not be around forever, and it will be up to you and Tomura to continue our family business, as you are so fond of calling it.”

“Tomura… and me?” Izuku frowned and he turned around to hide the expression from his father. Tsubasa cowered in the corner of the bathtub, entire body shaking and jerking. “I’m confused. Tomura-nii is the heir of the family business, father. He always has been.”

“And he always will be, but Izuku, my boy, you are our lynchpin. We cannot expose the true colors of the heroics society without your information from the inside. We cannot topple an empire without careful planning, without spies.”

“I don’t doubt the nobility of our goal, but it’s so hard already.” He licked his lips and let out a soft sigh. Tsubasa whimpered and moved forward, nudging his hand. His lips twitched up. “I like my classes; I find them interesting. And a lot of them are good people, not evil. Some of them are like us. They just chose differently.”

“And this is why you’re our spy. You understand people in a way that poor Tomura cannot. You’re able to blend in with heroes and gain their trust; you might be able to sway some to our point of view. You understand subtlety and patience, and that is what we need right now.”

Izuku’s hands shook. He didn’t know why he felt so angry, but it made him deeply uncomfortable. He didn’t like it when he felt angry. It made him doubt himself and his family, and he simply couldn’t afford to do that. “You chose me because I care about people?”

“I chose you because, perhaps, in another lifetime, you might have been a hero.”

Perhaps.

“Not quirkless, I wouldn’t.”

“There’s more than one definition of heroism, Izuku.”

“I suppose.” Izuku licked his lips and grabbed the head of the shower, intending to spray Tsubasa down. The head jerked minutely. Was he having a seizure centered in his hands? “Thank you for trusting me. I know it’s important to our family.”

He’ll just have to carry this weight. (a long time)

Nobody could know. Therefore, nobody will ever know.

Father stayed silent for a long moment, and then his hand fell heavily on his head. “Izuku, do you have doubts?”

Izuku swallowed. Lie, lie, lie. It wasn’t that he didn’t know how to lie; it was just that he had to convince his father that it was the truth. He met his eyes. “No,” he said. He felt slimy.

“Good. We cannot have room for hesitation.”

Father left him behind. Tsubasa cried, Izuku knelt on the ground, and gathered him into his arms to hide his tears in his pet’s fur. He couldn’t afford to show weakness, he couldn’t have doubt, his family was just and right—

So why couldn’t he sleep at night? Why did his thoughts race? Why did he just lie to his father?

He didn’t know what to do.

“I must be going crazy,” he muttered. That was the only explanation he could think of.


“Today, we’re going to do something that will define you for your entire heroics career,” Midnight-sensei announced to the class at large, once Aizawa-sensei had returned to his ever-present sleeping bag and given control over to her. Her eyes gleamed with a maniac light that reminded Izuku of the look Tomura-nii got whenever he had to fight against a big boss in a video game. “You all are going to pick your hero names and use those names to sign up for an internship!”

Great. More attention was going to be drawn to himself, especially since he didn’t even have any offers for an internship, let alone an idea for a hero name. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t even thought of a hero name; it had always seemed to be such an abstract idea, something that he didn’t have to prepare for since he would never get there. And yet, here he was now…

“So, what’s your hero name going to be?” Uraraka asked, bouncing up to hours side. Iida followed her at a more sedate pace, and Izuku kept an eye on him. He looked exhausted, and it made Izuku remember the morning news about Hero Ingenium, who had been hospitalized three days ago when he got caught up in strains crosshairs. Strain, who father wanted him to recruit.

“I don’t know. I never gave a hero name much thought.”

“Oh! Maybe you should call yourself something that has meaning. Like. Hmm… or something cute, like I’m going to call myself Uravity.”

“That is a cute name,” Izuku said. Uraraka smiled at him.

“It doesn’t have to be cute. Maybe it’s a symbol or something. Or a homage to someone who meant a lot to you.”

Izuku thought of how Kacchan, when they were younger, used to call himself Mighty Blast and hid a smile behind his hand. Kacchan always had looked up to All Might; somehow, he doubted that his hero name would be Mighty Blast though.

“I’m taking up my brother’s name,” said Iida. “He asked me to… when the doctors said he’ll be lucky to walk on his own two feet again.”

“Oh no, Iida. I’m so sorry.” Uraraka cried, putting a hand on Iida’s back. He blinked at her, and a little bit of the tension he was carrying between his shoulders relaxed. Izuku swallowed.

“He’ll be lucky then.” He said, hoping that he wasn’t being insensitive. But Iida smiled at him minutely.

Izuku rubbed the bottom of his jaw. His hands trembled, and he didn’t know why. It wasn’t like he had something to feel guilty over; he wasn’t the one who hurt Tensei Iida. It just felt like he had stood aside and let it be done. Not that he could have stopped Stain; he was a loose-canon and father wouldn’t have listened to him.

If anything, he likely would have questioned his motives.

“Well, I guess I know what I’m going to call myself then,” Izuku said, smiling at them.

“What? Already?” Uraraka’s eyes widened as he grabbed the tablet and stylus pen.

“Yeah. Kacchan’s been calling me Deku for years. Might as well use that as my hero name.”

“W-what? You don’t want to be called something else? Like Valiant? Or—I dunno, maybe Wildfire? I mean, doesn’t deku mean useless?”

“No, I’m sure. It wouldn’t feel right otherwise.” Izuku wrote the characters on a whiteboard application and looked up at Uraraka when he was done. “You and Kacchan both call me Deku, and you both are my best friends. It has meaning to me. I don’t want to choose a name that doesn’t. So it’ll be a reminder.”

Uraraka smiled at him. “Well, I guess that makes sense. A reminder for what?”

Izuku looked back down at his tablet, not to avoid looking at her eyes, but because he was trying to think of something to say. He thought of Todoroki, and how his father had systematically abused his mother until she snapped. That made him so angry, but it upset him that nobody questioned how Todoroki got a scar on his face. Nobody looked into Endeavor's conduct.

That wasn't right.

“I guess to not stand aside when something bad is happening.”


“I-zu-ku~,” Tomura-nii said, climbing through the window. Izuku groaned, staring down at the math homework that he had to complete, but it sounded like Tomura-nii was in one of his talkative moods.

“Go away. I’m trying to concentrate.”

Tomura-nii pouted and covered the quadratic equations he was solving with his hand. He had his gloves on, so it didn’t dissolve. “Oh, come on. Is that any way to talk to your brother? I’m not going to be around as often anymore.”

“That’s because you were dumb and tipped your hand too much at USJ, nii-san,” Izuku said, fixing him with a look. “I’m trying to do my homework, so let me! I have a strict schedule—”

“Oh, stop working so hard. You’re a genius like mother always says you are.”

“Huh? She never said that to me.”

“She doesn’t want you to get a big head.” Tomura-nii climbed onto the second bed—his bed—and sat in it, cross-legged. Izuku sighed dramatically and spun around to face him. “You got an internship, yeah? You have to go soon.”

“In a couple days. I’m going to Hosu. Why? I thought you don’t care about what I do.”

“Man, that’s going to throw a wrench in my plans…” Tomura-nii groaned and rubbed the back of his head. Dead skin fell from his scalp in flakes, littering his quilt. At least he wasn’t sitting on Izuku’s bed and spreading his gross hygiene habits.

“Nii-san?”

“No matter. What’s the big deal with Stain anyway? I don’t get it.”

“Don’t get what?”

“Stain. Why do people follow him? Why do people listen to him? We want the same thing, so why don’t people listen to me?”

Izuku rolled his eyes and stared down at his math homework. He didn’t think he could get a factor for thirty-seven that added up to seven. So he should take the quadratic equation, right? He hated this; it was so pointless. Why couldn’t he study heroic history instead? That was interesting.

“Izuku!”

“What?” Izuku snapped. “I’m trying to do my homework!”

“Take the goddamn quadratic formula then. It’s not factorable.”

“How did you figure that out? You only had a glimpse at it!”

“It’s not hard!”

“Easy for you to say! You took this stuff years ago!”

“Just wait until you get to calculus, nerd.”

“Joke’s on you, I don’t have to take calculus, genius.”

Izuku huffed and glared at the math homework, wondering if Cementos-sensei would accept the explanation that his homework combusted randomly when Kacchan walked with him on the morning train. He probably wouldn’t though, if only because Kacchan was too much of a rule follower.

“Deeeekuuuu.”

“Shut up, Tenko.”

Tomura-nii waved a threatening finger at his face. “Don’t call me that.”

“Then don’t call me Deku, and we’re even. And stop bugging me when I’m trying to do math!”

“Then answer my question!”

“Goddammit nii-san, I refuse to fail this class because of this stupid assignment!”

“Well, at least there’s something you’re not good at!”

“I just work harder than you! You don’t have to be so lazy about everything!”

“Oh my God, why did I even come?” Tomura-nii groaned, loudly, as he stood up and pointed at Izuku. “I’m going. Goodbye. I don’t need your advice. Everything’s going to end in a clusterfuck but it’s fine.”

“Maybe you need to learn how to be a bit more patient, nii-san,” Izuku suggested, feeling snide. He grabbed his headset and set his playlist to his study one. “And not try to do everything by force!” He screamed when Tomura-nii nearly broke his window yanking it up and jumping out of his room. The stray cat yowled, so he assumed that Tomura-nii stepped on its tail.

Tsubasa looked at him reproachfully.

“What?” Izuku grumbled. “You’ve seen what he’s like. He’s so mean to me.”

Tsubasa turned around and threw his head on Izuku’s pillow. Izuku sighed; apparently, Tsubasa disapproved of his argument with Tomura-nii, but so what? Mother and father never told Tomura-nii to treat him nicer, so he didn’t feel the need to do the same to nii-san!

He huffed angrily and went back to his math homework.

He had to sharpen his pencil three times before he finished the packet meant for the period of the internship, but at least he finished it.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: THE SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS

SORAHIKO’S first impression of Toshinori’s boy was that there was something in his mannerisms that seemed eerily familiar. Instead of panicking as a natural response when Sorahiko pulled his sausage and ketchup prank, the boy barely batted an eye before he was moving toward him.

“Looks like you weren’t attacked,” the boy muttered as he knelt beside him and placed his fingers over his pulse point. “So what happened…? And your pulse is strong…”

Interesting.

Toshinori had a habit of taking on the ones who actually had a brain between their ears.

“How silly of me,” he groaned theatrically, sitting upright. The boy scrambled away, his eyes widening for a split second, before his expression became carefully blank. Even more interesting. “I can’t believe I tripped and spilled all of these on the floor. Who are you?”

“Izuku Midoriya.”

Sorahiko’s heart shuttered, because surely not… this couldn’t be the same boy who came from that family.

“Eh? What’s that?”

Nana once warned him to be wary around anyone who had claimed the name of a Midoriya. If he his memory hadn’t failed him, there had been a powerful villain running around ten years ago who, despite being better known as Iron Will to heroes and associated, had gone by Inko Midoriya.

“Izuku Midoriya, sir.”

 Who are you? Sorahiko wondered, because if there had been something he learned with over fifty years of heroics, it was that there was no such thing as a coincidence.

He’d have to keep an eye on this one. There was something about him that was peculiar. The more he considered it, the stranger it seemed that the boy barely batted an eye at finding him lying on the ground. Most civilians, and kids, wouldn’t have the frame of mind to immediately spring into action at finding someone on the ground. At least, not without proper training and getting used to the sight of blood.

“I’d like to eat lunch.”

“What?”

Sorahiko felt a smirk play at the corner of his mouth, but he bit down on it. Now wasn’t the time to slip up on his act, even though it would be very soon. This boy had to be thrown completely off before it was time.

“Come on, Toshinori.”

“T-that’s not my name, sir.”

Ah, finally. He had unsettled the boy enough to get him to stutter.

“Bah, humbug! Let’s get lunch and then train after.”

The boy’s eyes narrowed. Sorahiko considered himself to have a good read on people, and he was certain that the boy was evaluating him. Perhaps he was trying to determine if he should dismiss him as senile or if he was realizing that he was putting on an act.

Toshinori’s boy was interesting.

“Um. Can I leave my uniform here then?”

Sorahiko couldn’t hide his smile. It might have been a little sharp. “Never leave your costume behind, boy.”

“O-okay!”


So far, Izuku did not know what to make of Gran Torino.

At first glance, he seemed to be a senile old man who had a habit of forgetting things. But then he had brought up training and told him to never leave his uniform behind. There had been something frightfully intelligent that had slipped past his façade of frailty. Something had been in the small smile that rested in the corner of his lips and the way he held himself.

Father had once complained about how Gran Torino had been a thorn in his side because he had sheltered All Might from him. Izuku felt on-edge, but he didn’t know why.

He followed Gran Torino because he was curious.

“Where are we going?” he asked, following the hero into a back alley that looked more than a little sketchy. It made him think about how Tomura-nii used to always complained about the dingy backroads he had to take and how common thugs jumped him, before he had met All Might. “This place looks a little scary…”

“Heroes can’t be afraid of walking in the shadows. Sometimes, we’re the only ones who hold those who would do harm to innocents at bay, so we need to be present to keep civilians safe.”

Izuku frowned. Not senile then. “I thought that underground heroes do this kind of stuff. You don’t strike me to be the type.”

Gran Torino looked over his shoulder and quirked an eyebrow at him. “Did you ever hear of me before I reached out?”

“Well, no.”

“There’s your answer, boy.”

“Wait, so you are an underground hero?”

“I don’t like to repeat myself.” Gran Torino took an abrupt turn to the right into a corridor that had barely enough room to fit two average-sized people. Izuku kept on his heel, glancing up at the graffiti-covered walls and the feeling slightly claustrophobic when he looked up and up but only saw buildings and a small sliver of the sky.

“Where are we going?”

“To get lunch.” Gran Torino said. “I already told you this, didn’t I, boy?”

“You did, but you never said where we’re going.”

“You’ll find out soon enough. Active One for All; I want to see your control of your quirk.”

“H-huh?” Izuku stuttered, taken aback at the abrupt change of subject. “Out here in the open?”

“Is it truly out in the open?”

“… I guess not.”

“Well then, what are you waiting for?”

“Are you sure this a good idea? Maybe we should do it somewhere else where there isn’t a lot of residences. I don’t want to mess up and use 100% of my power and hurt somebody, or even you…”

Gran Torino sighed. “You sure like to talk a lot. I’m getting impatient.”

Izuku blinked and the hero was gone. Wait, what—and then two feet planted firmly on his back, pushing him to the ground solidly enough that it knocked the wind out of him, and then he was rocketing off again. Izuku flipped around, but Gran Torino was gone.

What kind of quirk is this?

No, there was no time. He had to get onto his feet!

But as soon as he got onto his feet, Gran Torino knocked him off balance again.

“Choosing someone like you to be his successor? All Might’s a fool.”

Okay, no, now wasn’t the time to freeze up in fear—he had to act. Gran Torino approached him from behind just as he was getting to his feet, so if he just moved away at the last second, somehow… if he could just calculate the timing just right, and use just the smallest amount of One for All to enhance his muscles to move—

But when he crouched to jump, Gran Torino kicked him in his side. A blur—Gran Torino was a blur, but now he was able to actually see it right before he hit him.

“Better!” Gran Torino said. “Trying to analyze and predict? Still no good.”

And Izuku was knocked flat on his back, with Gran Torino pressing down on his head. He stared up at the man, gasping. Gran Torino sat back on his haunches, pinning Izuku to the ground effortlessly.

Clearly, this was the power of a seasoned pro. It was no wonder father thought that Gran Torino was a remarkable foe; All Might must have learned his ability to misdirect attention from this man who pretended he was senile.

Which he wasn’t—senile. Not even a little. Tomura-nii could learn a few tricks of the trade from him.

“Never thought I would have to tell this to Toshinori’s successor, but you think too much.” Gran Torino grumbled, rubbing the bottom of his chin. “You need more experience to sharpen your instincts, but first—you need learn how to control your quirk. Otherwise, it will control you.”

“I don’t want that,” said Izuku.

“I should hope not,” Gran Torino replied, his tone grave. “One for All is powerful, and with power comes danger.”

Izuku didn’t know how to respond to that. He understood what Gran Torino meant; All for One was the most powerful man alive and he was considered the archenemy of All Might – of Yagi-san. His father was dangerous because he was powerful.

Dangerous to whom was Izuku’s question. Was it to heroes? Villains? Everyone? Where was the line drawn at dangerous and simply strong.

“Does power inspire fear, Gran Torino?”

Gran Torino eyed him with a guarded look. “It depends on how that power is wielded, I suppose. Are you scared of All Might?”

“No.”

“No, because he saves people, right?”

“Right.”

“Then how do villains feel about All Might?”

Izuku thought about how Tomura-nii talked about All Might, with that expression of loathing always on his face. “They hate him.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know,” he said truthfully. Because even as a child, he could never bring himself to feel the same way his family felt about All Might. Maybe it was because Kacchan admired him so much; maybe it was because he always smiled at his fans.

“It’s an important question. Think on it over lunch and tell me your answer.”

Izuku nodded, stricken mute. Gran Torino grinned and turned into a little hole-in-the-wall shack that was sandwiched between two shabby building. As soon as Izuku stepped through the threshold, he got a waft of something that smelled… really good. It was foreign, so he didn’t recognize the smell, but it made Izuku think of the spices Kacchan sometimes used in his food.

“What kind of food is this place?” Izuku wondered aloud. Gran Torino grinned.

“Thai. Go sit at a table. I’ll order for us.”

“Yessir.” Izuku took a seat at the table next to a window and across from the door. There weren’t a lot of people milling about at this hour of the day, since it was in-between the lunch rush and the dinner hour. It was mostly elderly men and a couple of shady teenagers who probably should have been in school at this hour. Izuku felt very out of place in his U.A. uniform.

“Thinking about your answer, boy?” Gran Torino asked, taking the booth across from Izuku and sliding a bowl of noodles at him. Izuku took a bite and his mouth promptly felt like it was on fire. So, it was definitely something Kacchan would enjoy eating then. Gran Torino cackled. “We’re heading out to Hosu after this, so you better think fast.”

Izuku swallowed. “Is it because they’re scared of him?”

“Why?”

He was really beginning to hate that word. “Because they can’t beat him?”

“Why can’t they beat him?”

“I—um.” Izuku looked down at his soup, frowning. Why was father so adamant about taking All Might down by something other than brute force? He had already fought him once, and they had both lost something vitally important, but father didn’t want to back down. “I don’t know.”

“Hmm.” Gran Torino pulled his bowl of rice to his lips and started shoveling some into his mouth. That made Izuku feel obligated to fill the silence.

“All Might represents a set of ideals villains cannot understand, and I guess they want to tear down what they cannot understand.”

“All Might is a symbol.” Gran Torino agreed. “You know about thermodynamics, right?”

“Yeah. Energy can’t be created or destroyed, only transformed.” Izuku replied, although he was confused by the nonsequiter. 

“Correct. This is the first law of thermodynamics. What’s happening to our universe overall?”

“It’s expanding?”

“Yes. And what happens when it expands?”

“Doesn’t energy of the universe get more chaotic?” Izuku wasn’t sure where this entire conversation was coming from, or the point of it, but he figured Gran Torino had a point that he was trying to make and wanted to walk him through it until he reached his conclusion.

“Close. If you apply the second law of thermodynamics that states that the universe tends to increase in entropy, which measures disorder, then we can say that as our universe expands, disorder and randomness increases.”

“So what does this have to do with villains?”

Gran Torino smiled. “You’re a smart boy. Apply this knowledge.”

Izuku frowned down at his bowl of noodles that was rapidly cooling. He hadn’t expected to apply scientific rules into a philosophical context when he had agreed to Gran Torino’s internship – not that he had any other offers to pick from – but he somehow got the feeling that this was unconventional. At least for this level.

“If the universe tends toward disorder… but wouldn’t all living things add to the disorder of the universe?”

“Yes, through heat. But what makes up those living things – those are very ordered. A human body is made up of cells, which is made up of components called organelles. These cells come together to form tissues, which then form organs, and then organ systems. You get my point?”

“Kind of… so we’re very ordered internally, but we still cause the universe to increase in disorder?”

“Yes.”

“So? What does this have to do with villains, and All Might and heroes? Are they trying to destroy our society to increase the disorder in it?”

“Exactly!” said Gran Torino, excited. “That’s it. It’s a common experience among heroes that villains are agents of chaos who are harbingers of war on society.”

Izuku frowned down at the table, feeling a little sick to his stomach. Because… “what about those who just want a better life for themselves though? The ones who were homeless and turned to villainy to feed themselves or their families?”

“It’s easy to be a villain, Midoriya, but it’s hard to choose the better path and not succumb to that dark path.”

But it wasn’t like Tomura-nii had much of a choice, when the heroes overlooked the boy who was wasting away on the streets due to malnutrition. And there were heroes like Endeavor, who were truly villainous.

It’s not like I have much of a choice. Izuku realized bleakly, feeling his eyes burn. He looked out the window and watched the passersby walk past the restaurant. Because, the truth was, if he really was honest with himself… he didn’t think his parents would approve of his wavering convictions if they knew. He didn’t know how they would react, but if the nervousness that curled in his gut was any indication…

Well.

“What is it?”

Izuku looked at Gran Torino; Gran Torino stared back at him; and he wondered and wondered and his thoughts raced a thousand miles a minute, as he tried to figure out how to articulate what he was thinking.

He felt like he was on a tightrope—one wrong move, and he’ll plummet.

“Midoriya?” The older man’s eyebrows had started to furrow, although Izuku didn’t know if it was in concern or anger or suspicion. He was too distracted to even care about trying to discern which was which.

“What about those who weren’t offered a choice?” he finally settled on saying.

Gran Torino didn’t respond.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINETEEN: STAIN/TSUBASA


WHEN shit hits the fan, as the maxim goes, it really hits the fan for Izuku.

Izuku had first observed this phenomenon when he was a toddler and he had been told by his father’s most trusted doctor that he would never have a quirk. It had been a great disappointment for his parents because their quirks were both incredibly versatile, albeit not particularly strong innately. It had also been an endless source of teasing for Tomura-nii that had lasted for the good part of a decade.

The second time shit had hit the fan had been when he went out with Kacchan to the woods. Granted, they always found themselves into some type of mischief or another, but it had started innocent enough. Kacchan had wanted to catch bugs, Izuku had followed (as always); they found themselves walking across a land bridge to get to the other side of a river. The bridge crumbled when Kacchan stepped on a weak spot, which ordinarily wasn’t much of a problem since Kacchan knew how to swim, but it had been early spring and the flooding season had been particularly bad.

The most recent time – up until today – had been when Izuku had met All Might and the whole debacle with the Sludge Villain. Enough said. In fact, it had been almost a year since his last run-in with trouble, and Izuku had started wondered if his mother’s occasional gripes about how he always found trouble had become unfounded since then.

Well.

That streak had ended tonight.

He had gotten separated from Gran Torino after a noumu (probably one of Tomura-nii’s since this seemed like the kind of harebrained scheme he would make, and not father) had crashed into the train, Izuku had jumped from roof to roof, avoiding the clashes of conflict on the ground. He didn’t want to hurt the noumu since they didn’t really know what they were doing, and if he joined the heroes, he would be expected to.

Then he stumbled in on a man holding a katana above Iida-san’s heart in some shady alley. The man had a possessed grin on his face, and Iida had been pinned down—and he wasn’t even fighting to escape.

So.

Well.

Izuku couldn’t be expected to ignore that, now, could he?

He pinned his location and sent it to the group chat that Ashido had insisted everyone join before the internship started so that everyone could stay in touch. At the time, Izuku had thought it was a silly idea since they would only be gone for a week and it wasn’t like they would have much time to talk, but now he was grateful she had insisted for his number. Someone else would have to see that he had said something in that chat for the first time and maybe alert someone to his strange behavior. Hopefully.

The best case scenario was that he had to hold out for a hero; worst case scenario was that he had to save Iida himself.

Without making a sound, Izuku raced from the rooftops and jumped down, powering up his legs so that he could kick the man aside. However, when Izuku was right on top of him, the man only contorted his torso so that he flew right past him without making a mark. Unprepared for the lack of resistance, Izuku tumbled to the ground and had to roll back onto his feet.

“Interesting,” said the man with a smirk. “I barely heard you.”

“What the hell, Midoriya?” Iida shouted. To Izuku’s surprise, he sounded angry. He also had dropped the honorific behind his name, which was even more surprising. “This is my fight! Don’t get in the way!”

“You look like you’re pinned down! So don’t be stupid and let me help you before he hurts you or worse!” Izuku spat back, reflexively. Which wasn’t very much at all like the persona he kept at school and more like how he would respond to Kacchan or Tomura-nii.

The man chuckled. “I don’t believe I’ve run into anyone so… audacious in my presence.”

“Who are you?” Izuku wondered, because he knew a lot of villains and knew about even more, but he had never seen this man in his life nor had he heard of him. Iida made a strangled, choked sound as the man dug his foot into his ribcage before he stepped closer to Izuku. He wasn’t afraid to admit that something about the man’s aura made him feel uneasy, so he took half a step back.

I wish I had a knife hidden somewhere in my suit. He’d have to ask the support department to add one to the design if he got out of this alive.

“You’re the first person to ask that question,” said the man, looming over him. Izuku craned his head back to look at him in the eyes. “They call me Hero Killer: Stain.”

Oh. This is the person that hurt Iida’s brother, Tensei. Ingenium.

There was no wonder Iida had that angry look in his eyes. It reminded Izuku of Tomura-nii a little, and how he always seemed to be angry at everything and anything.

He’d have to be careful around this Hero Killer; he didn’t want to tip his hand too far and show his cards too fast, but he also didn’t want Iida to get hurt. Because Iida – and he knew that admitting out loud to his parents would sign a death warrant for Iida – but Iida was his friend, god help him. He was good and just and true; he wasn’t like Endeavor or the rest of those heroes that pretended to help people only because they wanted fame and glory.

“Can you move, Iida?” he asked, tilting his head, subtly trying to step in-between the two. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw another person – a hero – slumped against the wall of a dilapidated building.

“No,” said Iida. “You need to get out of here, Midoriya! Every time he runs into a hero, he kills or harms them permanently.”

“Shut up! I wouldn’t be much of a hero if I left my friend behind and saved my own skin!” Izuku snapped, because that was the simple and honest to God truth. By All Might’s definition, the essence of heroism was to butt into other people’s business, especially when they didn’t want to be saved. “So I’m not going!”

“Excellent!” Stain exclaimed with a grin. “Maybe there is at least one other true hero in the making.”

Wrong side of the pond, Izuku thought. He wasn’t a hero, only a villain pretending to be one.

Izuku leapt forward when Stain shifted his position, moving his katana in a preparation to swing at him. One for All… Full Cowling! He screamed, internally, summoning the quirk gifted to him and spreading it across all four of his limbs at the maximum output he could handle it.

He had to get close, he had to get close—if he got in before Stain could draw his blade and slice him—

“Careful! His quirk--!” Iida screamed, but Izuku ignored him and slid around Stain, using the wall as a springing board to kick at his blind spot—

 At the last second, yet again, Stain moved aside. Izuku tumbled, catching himself, but Full Cowling had worked. He hadn’t broken any bones, he could still move.

Except he couldn’t move.

“W-what?” he gasped, under his breath. His limbs were so heavy that they felt like anchors, chaining him to the ground.

Just what was Stain’s quirk?

He looked up and saw Stain grin, lowering his sword from his lips. Blood. He must have some type of quirk that paralyzing people that’s triggered by the consumption of blood. He guessed.

One step, two steps, three steps—Stain walked right up to Izuku, looming over him, and Izuku looked up and up at him. “Your quirk is weak, but your mind makes up for that. You have potential, unlike these two, and that potential is worth keeping alive.”

“Don’t hurt them!” he begged. He felt helpless as Stain stepped over him and moved closer to Iida, drawing his sword high above his head. “Don’t hurt them, don’t hurt them, don’t hurt them!” He shrieked.

Don’t hurt him, don’t hurt him! He didn’t mean what he said! He had shrieked at Tomura-nii when they were both children once, when Kacchan had done something to upset his older brother. He’d gone right up to him and grabbed his arm and tried to yank him back, and Tomura-nii had slapped him. Mom had been furious with Tomura-nii for hurting him, so Kacchan had been spared the brunt of Tomura-nii’s fury.

“I’ll keep this painless for your sake, little hero.” Stain declared, and Izuku flinched, turning his head away instinctively because he couldn’t watch. He couldn’t watch as his friend was murdered in front of him.

This is why villains exist in our world, he realized, tears burning his eyes and his cheeks and his face. I’m not fast enough to save him, or strong enough, or—

Blazing heat, blinding and bright, and familiar. Izuku let out a sob of relief as he saw Todoroki step into the alley, as Stain leapt away from Iida to avoid getting scorched.

“You’re lucky I was in the area, Midoriya,” Todoroki deadpanned, holding up his phone. “Next time leave a message with your text so it’s not so cryptic.”

Another wave of fire was directed at Stain, shielding Iida from him and blocking his movement for a few precious seconds.

“You came!”

“Of course,” said Todoroki. “The pros will be here in a couple minutes too. We just have to hold him off long enough.”

“Don’t let him cut you! His quirk is activated by blood.”

“Why?” Iida asked, sounding bereft. “Why would you go to these lengths…?”

“Dammit!” Todoroki swore, as Stain leapt out of the fire and threw a knife at him.

“Todoroki!” Izuku screamed.

“You’ve got some good friends, Ingenium!”

A blockade of ice blocked Stain’s next movement. Izuku twitched a finger – he could move, almost, he was almost free. If he could just help—

“It’s not a wise strategy to block your line of vision!” Stain warned, the ice shattered, and Izuku broke free of the Stain’s vice-like hold. Stain was leaping up and high, aiming down to hit Todoroki, and Izuku leapt high in the sky to knock him off his course.

“Gah!” Stain gurgled, surprised. Izuku tumbled to the ground and rolled back onto his feet.

“Out of the way!” Todoroki screamed, and another blockade of ice pushed Stain back, away from them and Iida.

“What do you think the trigger is to escape his quirk?” Izuku asked Todoroki, pushing himself back onto his two feet so that he could move quickly as soon as Stain attacked them again.

“I can think of three potential reasons. Either it’s because the effect of his quirk gets weaker as he uses it on more people, or he needs to consume more blood for its potency to increase, or it’s dependent on blood type.”

“Either way, we have to draw this fight out long enough to buy time for the pros.”

“Yeah,” said Todoroki, holding his arm. It was emitting steam from the side that used ice, and Izuku wondered how much time Todoroki had before he over-exerted himself.

“We need to get those two out of here. Too much of your blood is exposed; I can distract him and you can provide the support.”

“Pretty risky plan, but it’s the best shot we’ve got. We’ll save those two together.”

Izuku nodded at him before he shot forward, Todoroki’s ice trailing behind him half a heartbeat later. He planted his left leg on the ground and swung his torso around, aiming to clock Stain in the jaw with his steel-toed boots. But Stain avoided him, and Izuku fell to the ground, paralyzed all over again.

“Todoroki!” he screamed in warning, as Stain cut through the ice like it was paper.

“Never forget who you want to be!” Todoroki screamed.

A heartbeat passed, and Izuku was certain that Stain was going to cut Todoroki down where he stood because he was so close and there was no way he could dodge that strike at that range. But then—he heard the whirling of the engines in Iida’s legs, and Iida was there, kicking Stain’s sword away with the leg that had no flesh to cut.

“This had nothing to do with you two, and yet you still came to save me.” said Iida, standing between Todoroki, who had fallen to one knee on the ground, and Stain.

“Not this again!” Izuku complained, trying to force his limbs to move. Almost, almost—his finger twitched.

“I have behaved foolishly and endangered you, and for that I am sorry. I will become a hero who is worthy of holding Ingenium’s name.”

“Bold words!” Stain declared with a scowl. “But a person’s true nature doesn’t change that quickly. You’re a fake hero who has prioritized his own selfish desires, a byproduct of the cancer the so-called heroes have warped on society. Someone must toppled the castle of cards they all stand upon!”

That was the same exact ideology his family believed in, the realization flashed into Izuku’s mind with a startling clarity. They, too, wanted to reveal the true colors of heroism to society. And yet, by that very same logic…

He could move again.

Izuku exploded forward at the same time as Iida, Full Cowling propelling to greater and faster heights because he had to protect his friends first. He could have his moral crisis later and not now, when any moment of distraction was liable to get himself and the others killed.

Two jumps. Two jumps and he could use the ice as a platform to hit him.

So he did exactly that, funneling as much power through Full Cowling into his legs as he could possibly manage. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Iida leap forward, so he calculated to hit the side closest to him—

His fist connected with Stain’s jaw, while Iida’s recepto burst made contact with Stain’s torso, causing him to curve inward.


It took a moment for the adrenalin to clear from his mind like a fog, but Stain laid slumped across Todoroki’s ice.

“He’s out cold, right?” Iida asked.

“I think so? We should tie him up with rope, in case he wakes up.” Izuku replied.

“And probably take his weapons for good measure,” Todoroki added, relaxing his stance minutely. He looked over his shoulder at the pro hero that was still knocked out. “Is he still alive?”

“I’m… not sure.”

Izuku stumbled over, his legs screaming from overuse, and placed his index and middle finger across the man’s wrist, between the bone and tendon of the man’s radial artery. He waited for thirty seconds, but he found no pulse.

He swallowed.

“Dead,” he whispered softly, sitting back on his haunches and rubbing his face. He was too bone tired to even cry, and he couldn’t stop thinking about how Stain’s agenda echoed his parents’. They had the same drumbeat.

Todoroki knelt next to Izuku and tugged him onto his feet. “We can tell the heroes about Hero Native when we meet up with them. Iida found some rope, so Stain has been tied up.”

“Okay.”

They walked outside the alley, Todoroki pulling Stain along behind him as Izuku and Iida’s injuries were too severe to do it themselves. Izuku rubbed his arms, trying to chase the goosebumps away. He felt so cold, even though it was the middle of May and therefore it was relatively warm.

His parents’ ideology had caused this much harm. A hero had died from his parent’s ideology. And he could argue and say that Stain had warped it, say that he was just an extremist or fundamentalist, but it had happened once.

It could happen again.

It would happen again.

“I’m so sorry,” Iida said, and Izuku looked up at him. There were tears brimming in the other boy’s eyes, the strangest sight seen today for Izuku. He never would have associated Iida and crying in the same sentence if he wasn’t there to witness it. “Both of you were incredibly wounded, you could have been killed, all because of me. I’m so sorry! I was blind and I lost sight of everything…”

“I’m sorry too,” Izuku said softly. “I didn’t realize you were hurting so badly that you would go to these lengths. I wasn’t a very good friend.”

Todoroki knocked Iida’s breastplate with his knuckles. It made a muffled clanging sound. “Get it together and move on. You’re the class president.”

“Todoroki! That wasn’t nice!” Izuku scolded, feeling remarkably like Uraraka in that moment. Iida, however, released a watery chuckled and rubbed his eyes.

“No, he’s right. I’m going to have to learn from this and use this to become a better hero. Tensei would be ashamed of the way I acted.”

How could every hero look for fame and glory? Izuku wondered, looking at the two remarkable young men that he had the courtesy of calling his friends. He kept looking and looking for the heroes that weren’t truly heroes and merely con-men, and yet he kept finding more and more people who just wanted to help and save people. To improve themselves. To get stronger, better, faster.

He wasn’t sure he could continue on this path. He didn’t think he could continue spying on the heroes at UA without falling prey to their falsehoods.

He didn’t know what was right anymore. Because Stain had killed a hero, even though he embedded his parents’ ideals. Because Endeavor had hurt Todoroki and his family. Because Iida, even though he chased after Stain and thirsted for revenge, had lain his sword down and had decided to become better, even though it would have been in his right to harm Stain the way his brother had been harmed.

An eye for an eye.

And yet he hadn’t.

Stain had hurt Iida’s brother, a good man, whom Izuku had met. He had twisted Iida’s sense of justice into something that was not justice. All for a better society. All because he wanted to prove a point, that heroes were con-artists who only wanted money, or fame, or glory.

Izuku’s head hurt, and he wasn’t sure if it was because of the adrenaline or

“You’re a better person than I am, Iida.” Izuku mumbled, and he didn’t intend for either of them to hear him, but they both looked at him in surprise.

“Huh? But—” Iida exhaled in surprise, opening his mouth to respond.

He was cut off by the arrival of several pro-heroes. “There you are!” Gran Torino shouted, storming up to Izuku. “I thought I told you to stay out of this!”

“U-uh,” Izuku stuttered, because he didn’t have a response to that. “I tried? But then I saw that Iida was about to get hurt, and really, Gran Torino-san, I couldn’t stand aside and let that happen.”

Gran Torino sighed and shook his head. “You and Toshinori are truly cut from the same cloth.”

Izuku couldn’t help but smile at the insult. He liked Toshinori-san, even if he still couldn’t quite understand the persona that built All Might. He was one of the few heroes he would consider to be genuinely interested in protecting the well-being of the public.

“That’s not a compliment, young man.”

“Get down!” Todoroki screamed. Izuku looked up and saw—

“Tsubasa?!” he gasped, forgetting about all the heroes and pro-heroes that had surrounded him and his classmates. For that was Tsubasa, soaring through the sky, far faster than Izuku had ever seen him and far more urgently than he thought possible for the creature that hid under his bed and whimpered.

Tsubasa swooped in and grabbed Izuku by the back of his shirt, taking off again with Izuku in his talons. “Tsubasa, Tsubasa!” Izuku cried as they flew higher and higher into the sky. “It’s okay! I’m fine! I’m still alive! You can let me go, you don’t have to protect me!”

I don’t want you to get hurt or captured.

Tsubasa swung his head down and chirped at him, sounding confused. Izuku fixed a smile on his face and reached out to pet his beak.

“I promise. I’m all right.”

How odd it was that he kept trying to reason with Tsubasa, as if he was a creature capable of rational thought.

Tsubasa shrieked in pain, and they tumbled from the sky. The Hero Killer – Stain, it had been Stain – had leapt into the sky and he had cut them down.

He had been, once. He’d been a human, once. He’d been his classmate, once. His bully, even. Before his father had taken an interest in him and had decided that he would be able to house multiple quirks. Before he had become Izuku’s guard dog. Before he had become his pet. An object.

Tears brimmed in Izuku’s eyes. His throat felt so tight. Tsubasa’s eyes—there was intelligence in them, but he had always ignored it because he hadn’t wanted to face it.

He didn’t want to face how his family had turned a little boy into a monster. He didn’t want to look too deeply into it. He didn’t want to do this, not now or ever. But the idea was in his head and he couldn’t escape it.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered, as they tumbled onto the ground. He rolled onto his stomach, but didn’t try to get to his feet, only lifting his head enough to look at the Hero Killer as he took one menacing step forward, and then another.

Toward Iida. Toward Todoroki. Toward the other pro-heroes.

“All of this society is a sham!” Stain declared, step after step after step, closer and closer to his friends. “The heroes who are shams and the villains who wield their power for petty crime are targets for my purge! All for the sake of a better society!”

Liars, liars, cheats all of them, Tomura-nii would rage every chance he got when they were younger. They all deserve to be torn down from their high horses.

Izuku realized very suddenly he didn’t want them to die. He didn’t want to hurt them. He didn’t even want to tear down the society that Toshinori-san had built, that Iida and Todoroki were inheriting.

He wasn’t angry.

He wasn’t angry about any of it for once.

No, that was an incorrect statement, because he was angry. In fact, burning rage hissed through his body like deathly poison, screeching a demanded release in the form of unwanted violence. It was like the lava in an active volcano; silent and unseen, but ready to erupt at any second and hot—terribly, terribly hot. He was furious. He was so furious that it was practically boiling over, but his fury wasn’t directed at the heroes this time.

He was angry at his father for turning a boy into a monster. At his mother for standing aside and letting it happen. At Tomura-nii for tormenting Tsubasa, even though he was defenseless against his taunts. Even though he had done nothing to antagonize Tomura-nii other than simply exist.

“Hero Killer!” Izuku heard Endeavor shout distantly.

“You fake!” Stain growled. “If I don’t fix it, if someone doesn’t shed the blood to fix it, if I don’t reclaim my hero status… come and try to kill me, fakes! The only one who is allowed to kill me is All Might, a true hero!”

There was a different kind of fire in Stain’s eyes compared to Tomura-nii’s. Idealism. He truly believed in what he was talking about, that anyone who was a fake hero in his eyes… they all deserved to die. Even the villains deserved to die.

It was so similar to the way his parents thought. So incredibly similar, and yet it was so different too.

Because Stain believed in what he preached.

To the point that even injured and beaten, he still would have stood and tried to take down every hero that came at him. To the point that he saved Izuku, the child of the most infamous pair of villains, because he saw something in him that was different from the fake heroes.

Tears trickled down Izuku’s face, one after the either, and he mourned for Tsubasa, for Tomura-nii, and the Family Business.

Because somehow, with an eerie clarity, Izuku had realized that he couldn’t run or hide from this knowledge. He couldn’t turn back time and try to protect himself from the truth of his family’s actions.

Tsubasa had been a human, once. But even Stain saw him as a monster now.

Chapter Text

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 wouldn’t.

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.

And yet…

“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.

  1. He didn’t agree with the methods his parents used.
  2. He didn’t agree with the profession of heroism.
  3. 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.

So.

He was trapped between a rock and a hard place—and he couldn’t find a way to free himself.