An inhuman scream splits the evening air. It sounds like nothing Izuku has heard before, but the noise touches something deep inside him, like someone crying out for help.
Aizawa levels a hard stare at Izuku and Shinsou, and says, “Stay here,” before he dashes into an alleyway, scarf rising as he runs.
“Yeah,” Shinsou says, “fuck that.”
Izuku catches his arm. Shinsou jerks in his hold, his shopping bags swinging back to thump against Izuku’s legs.
“You don’t have your provisional license,” Izuku says.
Shinsou shakes him off. “I don’t care. I’m not going to just stand here while Aizawa-sensei runs into danger.”
“That’s not what I meant—”
Shinsou darts after Aizawa before Izuku can finish. His white shopping bags glow in the dim alleyway. Izuku shoves his own bags further up his arms and sprints after him.
He finds Aizawa crouched over a woman. She’s not moving. Shinsou is stood a few metres back, breathing hard.
“Don’t look,” Aizawa instructs, pulling his fingers away from her neck. He must have been checking for a pulse.
There are no signs of an attack. No blood. No visible injuries. Just a thin layer of dust covering the entire alleyway, so fine it’s almost translucent. It shimmers under the fading sun.
Shinsou steps forward. “Is she ...”
“I said don’t look,” Aizawa says.
Izuku glances around the alleyway. Maybe the woman had overdosed or had a medical emergency, but he can’t forget that piercing sound. What had made that noise?
A shadow flits behind Aizawa’s crouched form. Izuku lunges forward, One for All burning up his legs, and plants himself in front of Shinsou and Aizawa.
A tennis ball thumps against his chest.
Izuku picks it up. When he looks to see who had thrown it, he doesn’t see anyone at the other end of the alleyway. Just pedestrians, obliviously walk past the alley where a woman lays dead.
Shinsou plucks the tennis ball out of his hands. He turns it over. “Must’ve have come from a neighbourhood kid.”
“Not everything is an attack, Midoriya,” Aizawa scoulds, taking the tennis ball. He seems distracted. There’s a body in the middle of the city, after all. And Aizawa has two students with him. “You need to calm down.”
Izuku ducks his head. “Sorry, sensei.”
Aizawa throws the tennis ball back at him. “Don’t apologise. Just don’t let yourself become paranoid. Jumpy heroes can hurt people.”
Izuku nods. He turns the ball over in his hand. It looks like any normal tennis ball, but when he rubs his fingers together, they feel slick and shimmer strangely in the fading sun, like oil clings to his skin. Strange.
Aizawa calls the police to handle the body. Izuku shoves the tennis ball in his pocket, where he forgets all about it.
A message is here! A message is here!
Izuku fumbles for his phone. Its light almost blinds him and he winces, rubbing his eyes.
It’s a message from All Might.
I won’t be able to train with you today. Nezu has asked that I stay at the Hero Conference for another day to help with PR. But I should be back tomorrow! Maybe today you could train with Aizawa instead? Sorry, my boy!
It’s 7:44am. Izuku already knows he won’t be able to go back to sleep. He props himself up against the headboard and types up a reply.
That’s okay! Have fun at the conference. I’ll see you tomorrow.
His phone buzzes. Message failed to send.
Huh. UA usually has great reception.
Izuku puts his phone down, frowning. If his phone isn’t working, he won’t be able to message his friends and ask if they want to meet up. Everyone else has gone home for the long weekend. The only reason Izuku had elected to stay at the dorms was so that he could spend all weekend training with All Might. His mum had already made alternative plans.
He sighs up at the ceiling. What now?
Izuku heads downstairs. Seeing the dorms so empty and quiet—it’s eerie. He keeps expecting to round the corner and see a half-asleep Uraraka hanging off Tsuyu or hear Iida corralling everyone towards the kitchen for breakfast.
There is someone in the kitchen, but he’s not one of Izuku’s classmates.
Shinsou is rifling through the fridge. The countertop is littered with diced spinach and coconut. A jar of Kacchan’s protein powder sits by the blender.
“Are you supposed to be here?” Izuku asks.
Shinsou flinches, hitting his head on the top of the fridge. He pulls back, scowling, rubbing his temple.
“Yes,” Shinsou bites out. “Aizawa-sensei said I could. The 1-C kitchen is empty.”
Kacchan isn’t there to yell at Shinsou for touching his protein powder, so Izuku just shrugs and grabs a water bottle out of the fridge.
“Are you still training with Aizawa today?” Izuku asks. Shinsou loads everything into the blender, not looking at Izuku. He nods tightly. “That’s cool. I was supposed to be training with All Might today, but he had to cancel. Maybe I could join you and we could—”
Shinsou turns the blender on. The screeching whir drowns out Izuku’s voice.
He hovers by the fridge, watching Shinsou’s smoothie froth up. Shinsou doesn’t switch the blender off, even when everything is combined. The noise grates at his senses.
“I think it’s done,” Izuku shouts over the blender.
Shinsou reluctantly turns it off. He unscrews a plastic bottle patterned with tiny Thirteens.
“I think Uraraka has that same water bottle but in pink,” Izuku says. “Are you a big Thirteen fan?”
Izuku hops from foot to foot as Shinsou pours his smoothie into the bottle. He’s never been good at making conversation. Before UA, the only person who would willingly talk to him was his mum.
“I’m a big hero fan too,” Izuku blurts. “All Might is my favourite, but I think all heroes are cool. Is-is Thirteen your favourite?”
“Eraserhead’s my favourite,” Shinsou says, screwing the cap onto his smoothie. “I prefer underground heroes. A lot of mainstream heroes are too … obnoxious.”
Shinsou’s smile is sharp. Izuku gets the distinct impression he’s being laughed at. “Don’t worry about it.”
Before he can ask what Shinsou means by that, the front door swings open and Aizawa trudges in.
“Ready?” Aizawa asks.
Shinsou shoves the blender in the sink and grabs his smoothie. He nods tightly. “Ready.”
“W-wait!” Aizawa’s gaze flicks to him, and Izuku tries not to falter under the weight of that stare.
Izuku knows he’s difficult to like. Teachers, especially, find him irritating. He’s too much trouble. He’s always been too much trouble.
But the thought of spending the day rattling around the dorms, the silence eating away at him, compels him to shove down his anxiety and ask, “Can I join you? All Might is still at the Hero Conference. He won’t be back until tomorrow.”
Aizawa glances at Shinsou, scowling down at his smoothie, and then back at Izuku.
“You’ll have tomorrow with All Might,” Aizawa says. “Take a break today. If you must, you can work out in the gyms around campus, but don’t overdo it. Recovery Girl isn’t here to piece you back together.”
Izuku shrinks in on himself. Under Aizawa’s flat gaze, he feels small but also like he takes up too much space.
“I’ll be careful.”
“Hm,” Aizawa says, like he doesn’t believe him. Then he turns to Shinsou. “Let’s go.”
Shinsou nods, jaw set, and follows Aizawa out of the dorms. Izuku hovers in the kitchen after they’ve gone. Now that he’s well and truly alone, the dorms feel foreign. Unwelcoming.
So Izuku does what he always does when he’s anxious: he trains.
If Izuku had chosen another gym, he wouldn’t have known. UA is full of training facilities. He could have picked one on the other side of campus, well out of hearing range.
Around noon, when Izuku is hunched over his knees, sucking in air and berating himself for not being stronger, he hears it. A scream.
He sprints out of the gym. He hears the shriek of metal-on-metal and raised voices. With a burst of One for All, he follows the sound into a neighbouring gym.
Inside this gym is a small derelict industrial area, maybe a fifth of the size Izuku is used to working with in class. And there’s Shinsou, at the top of a construction site, clinging to a buckling cement wall. Scaffolding is collapsing under him and, like a stray thread unravelling a sweater, it’s taking the rest of the building down with it.
“Don’t move!” Aizawa calls up at him. He’s scaling the swaying building as quickly as he can.
“I don’t really have a choice,” Shinsou shouts back.
Aizawa isn’t going to make it. Izuku can already see the seams of the building coming loose, the cement warping beyond repair.
He throws himself forward, electricity tasting like bile in his throat, but he’s too far away and the structure is too unstable. Aizawa grabs Shinsou’s hand just as the building collapses in on itself.
Cement dust billows up around them. He hurls himself at the rubble, hacking up the dust in his lungs. He digs and digs and digs through the debris.
He sees Shinsou first. It looks like Aizawa twisted them around as they fell so that he took the brunt of the impact, but it still hadn’t saved Shinsou. A metal rod juts out of his abdomen, skewering him above his hip bone. His legs are twisted under the rubble.
Aizawa is only half-visible beneath him, but even from this angle, Izuku can tell that his neck is broken.
In class, they’re taught to prioritise. Civilians with life-threatening injuries take precedent over minor wounds or—or people who have already died.
“You can’t save the dead,” Aizawa had told them once, looking tired and frighteningly serious. “You can’t stop and mourn them when there are people that still need your help. You have to keep moving, no matter what.”
It was a harsh lesson for a class of sixteen year olds to hear. But Class 1-A was often on the frontlines and Aizawa had to prepare them for the inevitable.
Izuku fumbles with the collar of Shinsou’s costume. He finds a thready pulse, weak enough that it scares him.
Izuku reaches for his phone, but then remembers he left it in the dorms. He rummages through Shinsou’s utility belt, careful not to jostle the iron rod protruding above his hip. He finds Shinsou’s mobile. It’s sticky, blood seeping into the grooves in the keyboard. He just hopes the circurity hasn’t been affected.
He calls 119. The phone rings and rings and rings. After a few minutes, Izuku hangs up and tries again. Then he tries 110. That doesn’t work either. He tries All Might. In a fit of desperation, he tries calling his mum.
No one picks up.
He can’t move Shinsou. If he does, he’ll bleed out before help can arrive.
If help will arrive.
Izuku sprints back to the dorms using One for All, faster than he’s ever moved before, and finds his phone on the kitchen counter.
He tries every emergency number he can remember. He rings All Might, Gran Torino, Mirio, Todoroki.
Of all the days for the reception to be down…
He runs back to the dorms, his vision swimming around the edges. Everything is just as he left it.
“I’m sorry,” Izuku says, light-headed, though no one is awake to hear him. He reaches for Shinsou’s pale throat again.
This time, he can’t find a pulse.
He searches blindly for another minute but he still can’t find a pulse. He tries Shinsou’s left wrist. His right one. Nothing.
The ground is rocking violently beneath him, like a boat tossed about in a sudden storm.
His vision fades as he’s staring down at his hands. One of his fingernails is missing. Blood has dripped down to his elbows, and all he can think about, as the ground is rushing up to meet him, is that he doesn’t know if the blood is his or Shinsou’s.
A message is here! A message is here!
Midoriya sits up. His phone says it’s Saturday. 7:44am. A text message from All Might blinks up at him, the same one he spent hours thinking about yesterday.
His hands are unmarked and clean. He’s in bed, his curtains pulled shut, his All Might plush propped in arms-reach by his pillow. But he doesn’t remember going to bed.
He remembers Shinsou and Aizawa dying, though. He doesn’t think he’ll ever forget that.
As if in a trance, he dials All Might’s number. The phone rings endlessly in his ear. He gives up. Tries his mum. Tries Recovery Girl. Tries the police.
Even though he remembers Aizawa’s unseeing eyes, blood dribbling out of his tear-ducts, he dials Aizawa’s number.
Aizawa picks up after the first ring. “Midoriya, what is it?”
Izuku stares sightlessly at the wall. “You’re okay.”
“Midoriya?” Aizawa says. “Is something wrong?”
“No,” Izuku says, even though something clearly is. “No, everything’s fine, sensei.”
“Alright,” Aizawa says, though he sounds heistant. Like he doesn’t believe Izuku. “I’m heading to the dorms to pick Shinsou up now. I’ll see you soon.”
“See you soon,” Izuku mumbles, and then hangs up.
He takes the elevator down to the living room. He knew Shinsou would be in the kitchen; Aizawa had told him on the phone that that was where he was.
But he remembers, too vividly to have been deja vu, Shinsou making this exact smoothie, glaring at the countertop to avoid looking at him.
He also remembers him dying. But there Shinsou stands, clearly alive.
“Midoriya,” Shinsou greets. “You look like shit.”
Izuku crowds Shinsou against the fridge and pickpockets his phone. He calls a random number—Uraraka, this time—and feels sick when it rings out.
“What the fuck, Midoriya?”
Shinsou snatches his phone back and shoves Izuku, reversing their positions. Izuku’s back hits the fridge. The magnets rattle beneath him and Kaminari’s test (an impressive B- in Hero Law) falls to the ground.
Izuku stares at Shinsou. He barely registers the barred teeth, the elbow pressed into his sternum. All he can see is Shinsou’s body half-buried in rubble, his mouth open just slightly, like he was in the middle of forming words when he died.
“I’m sorry.” Izuku’s not sure if he’s apologising for stealing Shinsou’s phone or for—something else.
“If you wanted to borrow my phone, you could’ve just asked,” Shinsou says, eyeing him. “Are you okay?”
Izuku scrubs a hand over his face. “Yeah. Sorry. I think I just … had another nightmare.”
Shinsou nods and steps out of his personal space. “Happens to all of us. But don’t do that to me again.”
“I won’t,” Izuku says.
Shinsou goes back to making his smoothie. Izuku watches him for a moment, still feeling unbalanced. Shinsou does his best to ignore him. He doesn’t seem as agitated as he had yesterday (if yesterday had even happened).
“Hey,” Izuku begins. “What day is it?”
Shinsou opens the jar of protein powder Kacchan left in the kitchen. “It’s Saturday.”
“Right. And what did we do last night?”
“That nightmare really fucked you up, huh?” Shinsou says, though there’s no real malice in his words. “Aizawa took us to the mall to get some new equipment. I think you got some ankle weights, I got some braces.”
Right. He remembers that.
“And then we ran into ...” Shinsou stops. “Is that why you’re messed up? Because of the body we found last night?”
It had been the first dead body Izuku had seen up-close. It should have unnerved him more, but the woman looked like she was sleeping.
But maybe the image had gotten stuck somewhere in his subconscious and created a vivid nightmare. Some kind of lucid dream. That must be it.
Aizawa enters the dorm without saying good morning. He makes a beeline for Izuku.
“Midoriya, are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Izuku says, pulling on a smile. “I had a nightmare, that’s all. Shinsou and I were talking and I think maybe what we saw last night ...”
“That’s understandable,” Aizawa says. “Even pro heroes find crime scenes confronting, especially if it’s the first time you’ve seen a body like that. Do you want to come with us until All Might arrives?”
Shinsou doesn’t argue, even though he had been so against Izuku joining them—in his dream. That fake Saturday was just a dream.
Izuku decides not to tell Aizawa that All Might isn’t coming today. “That’s okay. I think I’m just going to take a walk. Get some air.”
Aizawa nods. Shinsou grabs his smoothie and dumps the blender in the sink, and they head out to the gym. Izuku resists the urge to call after them, to stop them from walking back to that same gym, to that unstable building.
He waits a few minutes, before grabbing his wallet and phone and pulling his sneakers on. If there’s no reception at UA, then he’s going to have to go off campus to get some. He won’t go far or stay out long. It’ll be fine.
He jogs out of the dorm. The closer he gets to the gate, the harder his heart thuds against his ribs, and he starts running full-tilt. He’ll head straight for a payphone. He remembers seeing some at the train station.
Just before Izuku runs onto the footpath, he slams into a wall of glass. He’s thrown backward, nose spraying blood.
Izuku presses a hand to his bleeding noise, staring at the empty space in front of him. What was that?
He springs back up and runs at the gate. Again, he hits an invisible wall.
Izuku lays in the dirt, blood dripping onto his sweatshirt. There’s nothing visible stopping him. Just open air. But when he stands and holds his hands out, he can feel static-warmth pulsing above a solid surface, like the electric fuzz coating an old TV that’s just been turned off.
He can still see people passing in front of UA, pedestrians and cars completely oblivious to Izuku shaking behind the gate.
He bangs his fists against the glass barrier. “Hey! HEY.” No one stops. No one glances at him. It’s like he doesn’t even exist. “I’m here. WE’RE IN HERE!”
He keeps shouting until his throat hurts, but no one pays him any attention.
Two strange incidents could have been written off. Phones not working is a problem with the network. Strange, gruesome memories are just nightmares. But this?
This puts the pieces together. This tells him that it hadn’t been a dream. That his phone should work. That they’re in real danger.
He runs his hands over the barrier, trying to feel for holes, but it’s solid. It feels alive, humming under his palm.
Izuku backs up and then crouches in the dirt, One for All pulsing through his legs. Then he runs at the gate and leaps into the air, up and up and up, until he’s maybe thirty metres above the ground, well above the archway.
He still slams into an invisible barrier.
He plummets to the ground. He only just manages to twist around and land strategically, but his ankle still twinges painfully. It might be strained. Or maybe it’s a fracture. Recovery Girl had once called his pain threshold dangerously high; he stopped being able to tell how severe his injuries are months ago.
It doesn’t feel good, though. A faint throb, easy to ignore beneath the panic-adrenaline choking him. But still there. Real.
This isn’t a dream. This is happening.
Which means Aizawa and Shinsou are in danger.
Izuku stops by the dorms to change into a clean shirt and wash his face, before heading back out to find Aizawa and Shinsou. His face is smudged pink, but it won’t start bruising for another hour or so.
And he has experience running on injuries. It hurts, but Izuku has perfected the art of walking without a limp, even if his ankle throbs with each step.
He makes a beeline for the gym Aizawa and Shinsou had died in, but they’re not there. He reaches for his phone instinctively. Then pauses. His phone isn’t working. But then, he had called Aizawa this morning, hadn’t he?
Why is Aizawa the only person he can reach?
He hits call. Aizawa picks up after thirty terrifying seconds.
“Sensei,” Izuku says. “Where are you?”
“Training with Shinsou. Has something happened?”
What can he say? I watched you die. There’s a glass wall encasing campus, and it feels like a warm and breathing thing beneath my fingers, and I’ve lived through this day twice now, and I can still feel the phantom stickiness of Shinsou’s blood on my fingers—
“Midoriya,” Aizawa says, sharper this time, “are you alright?”
He can’t say any of that. It sounds insane and he has no proof. And something in his gut, something that’s years-old and carried him through a decade of schooling, reminds him that teachers don’t believe his wild accusations. Or even his regular accusations, backed up with fist-sized burns and stolen shoes and desks graffitied with black marker.
It’s not that he doesn’t trust Aizawa. He does. He watched him bleed out under a Nomu, trying to protect their class, but he also knows that there’s no point in telling him. Teachers don’t want the help of their students. They want them to sit out during fights, even though Izuku has already seen, up-close, what can happen to someone if he’s too far away to catch them.
That woman in the alleyway might have been the first body he saw, but Shinsou and Aizawa were the second and third.
“I’m okay,” Izuku says. “Really. Where are you?”
Aizawa tells him which gym they’re in. Izuku thanks him and hangs up, already jogging across campus. His injured foot burns with every step, but that’s okay. Izuku has gotten very good at pushing through the pain.
“You’re supposed to be with All Might today,” Aizawa says. Shinsou is hovering further back, by the mats. He’s wearing sweats, hands wrapped and hair pulled back with a cat-patterned headband. He watches Izuku warily.
“I know,” Izuku says. “I just—I was worried you were going to use one of the training grounds? I was training there the other day and it was really unstable. I don’t think you should use any of the gyms until they can be checked over. For safety reasons.”
Aizawa narrows his eyes. “Why are you only just bringing this to my attention now?”
“I was going to tell All Might,” Izuku says, “but he just texted to say he’s busy.”
Aizawa looks him over. Izuku tries not to fidget. He feels that strange dichotomy of too big and too small again, like he’s taking up too much room and will be scolded for it. It’s a familiar feeling, especially when he’s talking to teachers.
Finally, Aizawa says, “Fine. Shinsou, take a break. I have a few calls to make.”
“I think cell reception is down,” Izuku says.
“You called me earlier.”
Izuku nods, a quick bob of his head. “I know, but every time I try and call someone off-campus it doesn’t go through.”
Aizawa rummages through his pocket and pulls out his phone. He tries to make two calls before giving up. “I’m going to check the main building’s reception. Shinsou, Midoriya, don’t train without me.”
Aizawa stalks out of the building. Izuku watches him go, holding onto his phone so hard it almost cracks. He can call Aizawa if something happens, but would Aizawa call him? If something happened—if Izuku couldn’t get to him quickly enough—
“What is your problem?” Shinsou demands.
Izuku turns. Blinks. “Huh?”
“I thought you were just rattled by a nightmare this morning,” Shinsou says, “but now you’re barging into my training session and lying about accidents to distract Aizawa? I’m sorry All Might had to bail, but he’ll make time for you soon enough. He always does.”
Izuku laughs nervously. “What are you talking? All Might isn’t—we’re just—”
Shinsou rolls his eyes. “Everyone knows he’s training you personally. Why wouldn’t he, when your quirk is just like his? Why would he give anyone else the time of day if they don’t have your power?”
Izuku tries to stutter something out, some excuse, but Shinsou forges on, “But because he bailed on you, you had to go and ruin it for me too? You couldn’t even let me have one day.”
“There’s something wrong with the gym,” Izuku insists. “I wasn’t making that up.”
Shinsou laughs, a rough sound that makes Izuku duck his head and squeeze his eyes shut. “You might have the teachers wrapped around your finger, but I’m not going to fall for your bullshit. And I’m not going to stop trying to be a hero, no matter how many times you shove me down. Tell as many lies as you want. Tell the whole school how much of a villain I am.”
Izuku shakes his head, an “I wouldn’t” caught in his throat, but Shinsou just laughs again and it sounds raw, like it hurts coming up his throat.
“Like I said,” Shinsou says, “do what you want. I bet you always have.”
“I’m not,” Izuku says, starting to feel angry instead of just small. “You really would’ve been in danger if I hadn’t done something.”
“Thank you, hero,” Shinsou says sarcastically, shoving past him and heading to the door. Izuku scrambles after him.
Shinsou whirls on him. “The sick thing is, you don’t even realise how privileged you are—”
With a crack the ventilation fan above them breaks. Heavy metal pieces are dislodged from the ceiling and rain down around them.
Izuku tries to grab Shinsou, but a sharp piece of metal lands between them, cutting Izuku off for a second.
And a second is all it takes.
The vent lands on Shinsou doesn’t kill him outright. The collapsing building hadn’t killed him immediately last time, either.
Shinsou looks up at him blearily. He’s bleeding out onto the linoleum floors, and Izuku can’t help but stare at the flesh upturned by the sharp metal, the hint of bone and something meatier—
“Midoriya,” Shinsou rasps, or tries to. It doesn’t come out quite right.
Izuku is frozen. He never freezes, but standing there, watching Shinsou bleed out for the second time, it feels like every joint in his body has locked up.
Aizawa rounds the corner at a sprint and then stops. “I heard—Shinsou.”
Shinsou goes quickly, after that. Aizawa tries to save him with Izuku shakily following all of his instructions, but it doesn’t work. They still have to watch him die.
Aizawa and Izuku sit there, on their knees, blood staining their fronts. Aizawa is breathing hard. Izuku has never heard him sound like this, so shaky and untethered. Not when he was pinned beneath the Nomu’s hands. Not when Bakugou was kidnapped or Nighteye died. He had managed to sound strong then.
Now, Aizawa sounds lost.
“Sensei,” Izuku says, feeling useless, “I’m so sorry.”
Aizawa closes his eyes. “Stop. It’s not your fault.”
But it is. He had seen something like this happen once before and he let it happen again.
“I should’ve pushed him out of the way,” Izuku says. “If I had just been faster—”
“I said stop. If anything, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have left you both here after you told me that there was something wrong.”
“You didn’t know! You d-didn’t—” And now Aizawa is blaming himself, even though Izuku is the one that failed to save Shinsou. For the second time. He’s supposed to be a hero, and now he’s failed to save the same person twice.
“Midoriya,” Aizawa says. “Izuku. I need you to breath for me, okay?”
“I-I’m fine. Shinsou is the one who—who—”
His vision is blurring around the edges. This is what it had felt like last night—the greying in his vision and rocking beneath his feet before he passed out. Maybe this means that all hope isn’t lost.
Maybe it means another chance.
“I’ll do better,” Izuku says, latching onto the front of Aizawa’s jumpsuit. “I’ll save you both next time. I promise, sensei.”
“You need to calm down,” Aizawa says, hands clamped around Izuku’s wrists, like he’s trying to hold Izuku together. “Breathe. It’s okay. You’re alright. Just breathe with me, okay? In and ...”
Aizawa’s voice peters out. Everything goes watery and grey and then a cold, beautiful black.
A message is here! A message is here!
Izuku jerks upright.
He grabs his phone. Saturday, 7:44am, it says. (1) new message.
He’s back again.
He jumps out of bed. His foot doesn’t twinge with pain and his ankle isn’t swelling beneath his sweatpants, even though he remembers hurting it after he bounced off the invisible wall trapping him inside UA.
He sprints downstairs. Shinsou is in the kitchen, rummaging through the fridge. When he looks up and sees Izuku in the living room, sweaty and panting like he’s just run a marathon, he shuts the door.
“What’s going on?”
Izuku hugs him so hard that his legs leave the ground. Shinsou goes stiff and starts swearing, wriggling in Izuku’s hold, but he just tightens his hold.
“You’re okay,” Izuku says, almost dizzy with relief.
Shinsou rams his bony shoulder into Izuku’s cheek, forcing Izuku to drop him. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
Twice now, he’s had to watch Shinsou die, only to wake up to All Might’s message, as if the day had never happened.
This is a pattern, now. Which means it’s probably going to happen again.
“You shouldn’t train today,” Izuku says.
Shinsou drops Kacchan’s protein powder, scowling. “Excuse me?”
“It’s dangerous.” Izuku’s heart is beating in his throat. This is how he feels whenever the League of Villains attacks; like every second is hurdling past him, danger pressing down on the people he’s supposed to protect. “You need to stay inside.”
Shinsou shoves past him, grabbing his bag as he goes, abandoning the half-made smoothie on the countertop. “I know it might be hard for someone like you to understand, but I’m not made of glass just because I don’t have an offensive quirk. Not all heroes need to be able to punch buildings into dust.”
“That’s not what I meant!”
Shinsou whirls on him. “Oh, yeah? What did you mean?”
Izuku fumbles for an explanation. “I think there’s something wrong with the gyms—”
His body stiffens, his mouth clamps shut. Shinsou drops his bag. “Stay there,” he orders, and Izuku has no choice but to stay rooted in place.
Shinsou is packing away the smoothie ingredients when Aizawa enters the dorms. He spots Izuku frozen in place and activates his quirk, eyes flashing red. Izuku can finally move again.
“What’s going on?” Aizawa demands.
“Midoriya is trying to stop me from training,” Shinsou says. “Apparently it’s too dangerous for me.”
Aizawa turns to Izuku for his version of events. He just opens and closes his mouth, still reeling from what happened yesterday afternoon. If that aborted Saturday even counts as yesterday.
I’m sorry, he wants to say. I’m so, so sorry.
Aizawa doesn’t remember that Izuku was too slow and got Shinsou killed. But Izuku remembers.
But Aizawa must see the guilt in his expression. “It’s not like you to try and impede another student’s progress. Do you have a problem with Shinsou?” Izuku shakes his head mutely. “If you do, you take it to me. Or better yet, keep it to yourself.”
“Yes, sir,” Izuku says.
Shinsou and Aizawa leave to train. The dorms sound so empty without them. It reminds him of the woods during their training camp. The black clearings ringed with trees, so disarmingly quiet for a forest full of villains. The near-silent walk after they had met up with Kacchan, only to look back and find him gone, snatched from under their noses.
Izuku has to fix this.
He tries the UA gate again. The invisible wall is still there. He scouts the perimeter of the school using One for All, but finds no trace of villains. And finally, in a fit of panic, he breaks into the main building and finds Principal Nezu’s office. The main phone there doesn’t work. Neither does the computer. Izuku is rifling through Nezu’s desk, feeling like a thief, when an explosion shakes the whole building.
He drops the file and whirls around. Through the floor-to-ceiling window, he can see plumes of smoke rising from one of the training facilities.
No. No, not again.
Izuku runs towards the billowing smoke, lungs burning. The gym is an inferno. The roof has collapsed inward.
He pulls out his phone and rings Aizawa without looking away from the flames.
Aizawa doesn’t answer.
He tries again, and again, and wants to start crying when he realises that he doesn’t have Shinsou’s number. He knows it won’t work, but he cycles through other numbers again. All Might. Mum. Iida. Todoroki. Uraraka. Mirio.
No one picks up.
There’s no sirens howling in the distance. No firetruck stationed outside of UA gates, called by the fire blazing inside. It’s like they’ve been fully cut off from the rest of the world.
Izuku sits down. He’s getting too dizzy to stay upright. The smoke stings his eyes and itches his lungs, but he doesn’t have the strength to move away from the blaze.
When his vision begins to grow dark, Izuku is ready for it. He lays down and closes his eyes, welcoming it.
A message is here! A message is here!
Izuku sits up. It’s Saturday morning again.
On autopilot, he tries to call someone off-campus. He doesn’t feel disappointed when the phone rings out. Just tired.
Is there any point in going downstairs today? Maybe if he stays away from Aizawa and Shinsou, nothing will hurt them. Maybe Izuku is the trigger.
It’s a weak theory, but it means he won’t have to leave his bed. Izuku pulls out his notebook, settles against his headboard, and goes over the facts.
This is the fourth Saturday he remembers. So far, Aizawa has died twice and Shinsou has died three times. He’s not sure exactly what happened that third time, but there had been no evidence that the explosion had been caused by a villain attack. If anything, it had looked like an accident.
They’d all looked like accidents. Like completely random tragedies.
Except they’re not. Izuku could believe one incident occurring, but three? Almost impossible. Something or someone is triggering these events. But how?
And then there’s the fact that it seems like Izuku is time travelling. And the fact that he can’t contact anyone outside of UA.
Maybe this is a dream or a hallucination. It feels too real, but then, his nightmares always feel do, right up until he wakes up, sweaty and nauseous with the phantom feel of blood on his hands.
But even if this might be a dream—and Izuku doubts that it is—he can’t risk treating it like one. Because if there’s even the slightest chance that this is real, and he does nothing and Shinsou and Aizawa die permanently, then Izuku couldn’t live with himself.
Izuku flips to a fresh page. He doesn’t know how to fix this, but he has to come up with something.
His phone rings mid-afternoon, jerking him out of his stupor. He thinks, for a moment, that it’s All Might ringing to say he’s finally finished with the Hero Conference and he’s on his way back to campus. But then he checks the caller ID. It’s Aizawa.
But it’s not Aizawa that he hears when he answers the call. It’s Shinsou. He’s crying on the other side of the line.
“Shinsou,” Izuku says calmly, “you need to take a deep breath for me. Can you do that?”
Shinsou sucks in a rattling inhale. “It’s—it’s Aizawa. He’s …”
Izuku closes his eyes. He needs to get up and find Shinsou. He knows, firsthand, how awful it is to see someone you admire die. He knows how trapped you can feel, alone with a corpse and knowing no help is coming.
But he’s already seen Aizawa die before. It’s hard to convince his body to move when it still remembers the image of Aizawa half-buried in rubble, bleeding from his open eyes.
“We were training and then he went white and started having chest pains,” Shinsou chokes out. “And he just—he just collapsed.”
A heart attack. That’s new. Does that rule out the possibility that this is a reality-manipulating quirk? But then again, it’s possible that someone with a similar quirk, like luck-alteration, could mess with Aizawa’s cardiovascular system. It wouldn’t be too hard to skew the odds like that.
“Are you mumbling right now?”
Izuku cuts himself off, forcing himself to focus on the ragged breathing on the other side of the line and not on his half-formed notes. “Sorry! I’m listening. Really.”
“I can’t contact anyone,” Shinsou says, and now he sounds more angry than panicked. Izuku understands that. He does. Since he’s been trapped in this time loop, he’s punched holes in a few walls. “Not the police, not Recovery Girl, not Present Mic. Only you.”
“Reception must be down on campus,” Izuku says. “My phone isn’t working either. Tell me where you are and I’ll meet you there, okay?”
It’s not as gruesome as that first time, but it’s still hard to see Aizawa splayed out on the ground, pale and unmoving. He tries to guide Shinsou out of the gym, away from the body, but Shinsou keeps fighting him. He won’t let Izuku separate him from Aizawa.
“Shinsou,” Izuku says, both hands on Shinsou’s shoulders, trying to keep his attention on him instead of Aizawa. “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”
Shinsou shakes his head, breathing quickly and shallowly. “It’s not. You can’t just fucking say that.”
“He’s not dead,” Izuku says, and Shinsou just laughs. “Okay, he is dead, but I mean he’s not going to stay dead. He’s coming back.”
Shinsou laughs again, the sound hiccuping in the middle. “And I thought I wasn’t handling this well.”
Izuku’s hands bunch in Shinsou’s uniform. He’s never told anyone about the loops before, not really, but he can’t let Shinsou fall apart, thinking this reality is the one they’re stuck with when Izuku knows it’s not. “Listen to me: this has happened before. It’s some kind of—of time loop. You two keep dying, and I keep waking up again on Saturday morning to find you both alive. The day will restart soon and Aizawa will be back.”
Black is already encroaching on the edges of his vision. He’s kneeling on the gym floor, trying to keep Shinsou together, but the earth still feels unsteady beneath him.
“I’m going to figure out how to fix this,” Izuku promises, mustering up a smile. “It’s going to be okay.”
I’m going to make it okay.
Shinsou doesn’t believe him. Izuku can see the struggle play out on his face; he clearly wants to believe him, but Aizawa is lying dead a few metres away and he’s deep in shock and he doesn’t even like Izuku, let alone trust him.
But that’s okay, Izuku thinks, holding onto Shinsou’s uniform as they both shudder, shivering on the linoleum floor. He doesn’t have to believe that I’ll save him; I just have to make it happen.
Izuku wakes up with fresh determination and All Might’s voice blaring from his phone.
He picks up his notebook. All of his theories and ideas are gone, but Izuku remembers them. He can try them all, one by one.
It seems like he has all the time in the world.
A message is here! A message is here!
Izuku isn’t sure how many Saturdays it’s been. He could probably work it out in his head if he stopped and counted all the ways Aizawa and/or Shinsou have died, but he doesn’t want to. What would be the point?
What’s the point?
It’s a familiar thought, one that greeted him when he was nine and still sore from running into Kacchan the day before; when he was fifteen and his bones were aching from overusing One for All; when he was sixteen and the only thing on the news was All Might’s abrupt retirement and the rising death toll in Kamino Ward.
It’s one of the reasons why he has All Might’s face wallpapered around his room. When he wakes up and feels like his bones are full of cement, he can look up and see All Might beaming down at him. Telling him that it’s okay. Reminding him of his goal.
But All Might’s voice is echoing in his ears, and he can see Aizawa’s body behind his lids, bloody and twisted up and not moving, and Izuku is so tired.
Maybe he’s looking at this from the wrong angle. Maybe he’s not supposed to save them; after all, every time he shepards them to a new location or prevents one misfortune, another violent accident will crop up when he’s not looking. Like the universe is rewriting itself, just to kill Aizawa or Shinsou or both of them at once.
He props himself up against the headboard and stares down at his phone’s wallpaper, the way he stared at his All Might posters when he was young and bruised and trying to find the motivation to get up and put his uniform on.
It’s a selfie, slightly blurry. All Might had gotten permission to sneak them off campus to get boba since it was Tsuyu’s birthday. In the photo, they’re crammed together in front of the store. All Might, and his friends, and Izuku.
Keep going, their smiles tell them. It’s worth it.
When Izuku forces himself out of bed, he searches campus from top to bottom, looking for—something. Anything. A sign of villain activity, or forced entry, or a way to get out of UA.
He finds nothing.
His phone rings mid-afternoon and Izuku sits down in the dirt, his arm throbbing from another failed attempt to jump over the wall. It’s cool in the shade. He lets his phone ring out.
He doesn’t know if it’s Shinsou or Aizawa, but he knows what they will say. He doesn’t want to hear one of them tell him about the other’s death. Not again. So he sits in the dirt and thinks about that afternoon with his friends. The feel of All Might and Todoroki pressing in on either side of him. The sight of Uraraka, Tsuyu and Iida laughing on the other side of the boothe. The taste of mint tea.
When his vision gets blurry, he lays down. Roots dig into his back and there are leaves in his hair, but flat on the ground, he can almost pretend he’s going to sleep instead of passing out.
The next morning, Izuku thinks, Maybe I’m going about this the wrong way.
It’s not the first time he’s thought this. It’s a theory that’s been growing in the back of his head like a fungus.
Because if he can’t stop Aizawa and Shinsou from getting killed and there’s nothing tangible for him to fight; if he can’t find whatever or whoever is doing this and make them stop; if he can’t leave campus or contact someone and get help, then what else is there?
They can’t get through the day without at least one of them dying. So far, Izuku has been running on the assumption that all three of them need to survive long enough for the day to tick over to Sunday, but maybe that’s not it at all.
The time loops are triggered by a death. Maybe the same kind of logic needs to be applied to break them out of the loops.
Maybe someone needs to voluntarily die. Maybe that person is him.
It’s been almost two weeks of repeated Saturdays, and Shinsou and Aizawa have died a dozen times each, often together but sometimes apart.
But Izuku has never been the target of any accidents. He hasn’t died once, even when he’s standing near Shinsou or Aizawa when they’re killed. Izuku is the only one with his memories intact, too. That means something.
Maybe the loops have been leading him to this conclusion the entire time.
But it’s not a theory he can just test, is it? If he’s incorrect, he might not get brought back like Aizawa and Shinsou. But then, maybe Shinsou and Aizawa would still make it to Sunday alive … Even if Izuku died permanently, he would have at least saved them.
Izuku pushes the thought away and goes downstairs to try, once again, to keep Shinsou and Aizawa out of the gyms.
But the idea lingers, growing roots in the back of his mind.
Izuku doesn’t know what number he’s on. He was counting Saturdays, but he’s lost track. More than ten. Less than twenty. Or was it higher than twenty?
His head feels too heavy, but he’s never stayed in bed for an entire loop, even if he wanted to. He can’t just lay there while Shinsou and Aizawa are in danger.
He pushes himself out of bed and stumbles downstairs, collapsing onto the couch.
He doesn’t realise Shinsou has abandoned his smoothie, until he cracks open his eyes to find Shinsou leaning over the back of the couch, staring at him.
“You okay?” Shinsou asks.
Izuku shrugs into the couch. “Not really.”
Shinsou doesn’t ask what’s wrong. Izuku doesn’t expect him to. Shinsou is stubbornly against becoming his friend, despite Izuku’s attempts at changing that.
Izuku sits up, watching Shinsou return to the kitchen to finish making a smoothie. “Hey,” Izuku says. “How come you don’t like me?”
Shinsou startles, almost knocking over the container of protein powder. “What?”
“I get it,” Izuku goes on. “I’m not very likeable. I talk too much and mumble and get fixated and my social skills are, uh, pretty bad. And I’m not funny or—” He shakes his head, scrubbing a hand through his frazzled hair. “I just mean that I understand. But I need to know: is there a reason why you’re so against me? Did I do something to offend you?”
If, a year ago, he had asked this same question to a student from his grade, he would know the answer: he was quirkless, and weird, and too-skinny, and unattractive, and it was social suicide to talk to him. He’d heard it enough growing up.
But he isn’t that Deku anymore. He’s a UA student with friends. He won Todoroki over through sheer force of will. Some people didn’t like him on principle, like Kacchan and Sir Nighteye. And maybe Aizawa too, he isn’t sure about that one.
But he hasn’t done anything to Shinsou, aside from fight him at the sports festival, but that was something students were required to do.
There were no ugly rumours circulating the school or insults scrawled on his desk in permanent marker, a warning to everyone in the school to stay away from Izuku. So why was Shinsou immediately so hostile towards him?
Shinsou stares at him. “What?”
“What?” Izuku echoes.
Shinsou stays quiet, just looking at him. Izuku doesn’t have the energy to think about what the expression on Shinsou’s face might mean.
“You’re serious,” Shinsou finally says. He rounds the couch and sits down on the other end, just out of reach of Izuku’s sneakers. “I don’t get you, Midoriya.”
Izuku laughs quietly. “Yeah, me neither. I keep trying to make friends with you, but you’re always so ...”
Hostile, Izuku almost says, but that’s not it. Defensive seems like it fits here.
“I never thought you were genuine,” Shinsou says slowly, like he’s still not sure if Izuku is telling the truth. “You’re so—” He waves a hand over Izuku.
“You just gestured to all of me.”
“Everyone knows you’re All Might’s favourite,” Shinsou goes on. “You have an insane quirk, and All Might loves you, and the rest of Class 1-A look up to you. I shouldn’t even be on your radar.”
Izuku sits up. “Why would you say that? You think—what, that I’d look down on you because I’m a hero student?”
He remembers other school’s assumptions about UA students. The way some of the kids from the General Education sneer at them, because they expect the Hero Course to be sneering right back.
“In my experience,” Shinsou says, something far-away in his eyes, “kids with quirks like yours don’t get along with people like me.”
He tries to picture it from Shinsou’s perspective. He imagines what it would be like to meet Class 1-A as an outsider. If he had never met All Might, his classmates wouldn’t have been his friends. He knows, firsthand, that they’re all amazing and kind people—but in another life, Izuku wouldn’t know that. Class 1-A would be, first and foremost, Kacchan’s friends. Kids blessed with powerful quirks, on their way to becoming successful heroes, while Izuku was left behind.
“I hadn’t thought about it like that,” Izuku says. “Can we start over?”
Shinsou nods, though he still looks reluctant. Cautious. Like he’s waiting for a blow.
“I’m Midoriya Izuku,” he says, holding out his hand. “I look forward to working with you. Let’s be friends.”
Shinsou snorts. He takes Izuku’s hand and shakes it up and down. “Shinsou Hitoshi. And we’ll see.”
Aizawa arrives, then. He doesn’t react when he sees Shinsou and Izuku sitting side-by-side on the couch, shaking hands and laughing at nothing.
Shinsou pulls his hands back, but he doesn’t jump away from the couch, so Izuku counts it a win. “Sensei. Good morning.”
“Good morning,” Aizawa says, before turning his attention to Izuku and his wild bedhead. “Where’s All Might?”
“He’s busy at the hero conference,” Izuku says. “Principal Nezu needed him for an extra day, so he won’t be back until tomorrow.”
Shinsou stands. He looks hesitantly from Izuku to Aizawa. “Maybe Midoriya could train with us today?”
“What?” Izuku says.
“Okay,” Aizawa says, as though this isn’t a big deal, as though he hasn’t always said no when Izuku asked to train with them.
But this is the first time Shinsou has extended the invitation. Normally, Izuku is the one trying to intrude on their private training session.
Aizawa turns to grab Shinsou’s bag for him, and Shinsou shoots him a secret smile. Izuku smiles wobbly back.
After so many days alone, this means more to Izuku than he can say.
The sun is beginning to set, casting the school in an orange glow. Izuku hasn’t gotten this far into a Saturday before. Either Shinsou or Aizawa are always killed by late afternoon.
He feels light. His body aches pleasantly from a successful work-out, and he’s still buzzing from Aizawa’s compliment about his improving hand-to-hand. He still remembers the small, secret smiles Shinsou had shot him that morning.
Izuku wants to eat dinner and sleep off the post-work out exhaustion. He feels almost dazed with happiness—or maybe it's relief. He’s beginning to think that, maybe, they’re in the clear. He can almost taste Sunday morning.
Maybe that’s why the ambush comes as such a surprise.
One of the villains has a paralysing quirk. Izuku’s face is pressed into the hard floor, and he’s unable to move or even twitch. He can only breathe. And watch.
This is how Izuku felt when he was pinned in that alleyway, watching Stain approach Iida with his blades drawn. Except that quirk had eventually worn off. It’s been almost twenty minutes and Izuku still can’t move.
They paralysed Aizawa too. He lays across from Izuku on his belly, dark eyes intense and mouth struggling to form words, opening and closing soundlessly like a fish.
Shinsou is being held in place by four men. A muzzle keeps his mouth closed. Muffled whines and screams escape through his gritted teeth.
In all the Saturdays Izuku has lived through, this is the first time that they’ve been attacked by villains. This is the first time any of them have been tortured.
Izuku wishes it were him they were cutting into. Not Shinsou.
He thought, at first, that this was the group trapping them in a time loop, but that doesn’t add up. The things this group is saying—it doesn’t make sense. This sounds like a one-off attack. Opportunistic and quick. Not like they’ve been watching them suffer for three weeks worth of Saturdays.
One of the villains wrenches Shinsou’s shoulder out of his socket and he screams and bucks under their hands, eyes wide and frantic.
Izuku wonders if this is some kind of sign. It must be. Why else would they—whoever is orchestrating this, whoever is designing new ways to kill Aizawa and Shinsou only to revive them—make them live through this?
Shinsou finally stops struggling against the hands holding him. He slumps to the ground, blood dripping from the shallow cuts that pepper his body. His eyes meet Izuku’s.
I’m sorry, Izuku wants to say. I let my guard down. I’m so, so sorry.
The leader crouches by Shinsou. He buries his hand in Shinsou’s hair, yanking his head up at a painful angle. Shinsou just glares weakly at him. “Giving up, then? Fine. Let’s move on.”
He waves a lazy hand at Aizawa. “Kill him.”
That gets a reaction from Shinsou. He starts thrashing again, almost dislocating his good shoulder, shrieking behind his muzzle.
Izuku closes his eyes. At least now the day will restart.
But it won’t be over. Not really. This could happen again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. An endless string of Saturdays with no way out.
Aizawa dies with a faint gurgle and a spray of blood, still mouthing soundlessly at them. Shinsou sounds inhuman behind the muzzle.
The leader eyes Izuku. “Huh. This one barely even blinked. I wonder … kill the Gen Ed kid. I want to see what happens.”
They kill Shinsou slower than they had killed Aizawa. Izuku still can’t move or speak or twitch. He just lies there, crying freely, as Shinsou chokes and screeches and stares at Izuku with such panic, his eyes screaming out for help that Izuku can’t give, until they finally get bored and slit Shinsou’s throat.
Izuku wakes with a scream caught behind his teeth and All Might’s voice in his ears.
A message is here! A message is here!
He grabs the phone and hurls it across his room with a burst of One for All. It shatters, leaving a sizeable dent in the wall. Who cares? In another twelve hours, he’ll be waking up to an intact phone and the dent will be gone.
He tears off the blankets. He’s sweaty and panting, but there’s no fresh bruises from the ambush, no blood drenching his sweatshirt.
He should be used to this. He’s not.
He pulls his sweatshirt off so roughly that the sleeves tear and then he climbs into the shower with his socks still on. The water is scalding. He doesn’t even feel it.
He’d been so stupid. He’d thought he’d fixed everything just because—what? He started getting along with Shinsou?
That’s not how this works. He was reaching the third week of repeated Saturdays and so when something had changed, when the day had seemed to go right in a way it never had before, he had let himself hope. Let his guard down. Forget how much danger Shinsou and Aizawa are in.
He can’t let them go through that again. Even if they don’t retain their memories of their deaths, they still experienced it.
He can’t let either of them die again at all. This needs to end. Today.
His brain drifts back to his old theories. To the biggest one, lodged in his throat. The one his mind keeps coming back to. He’s tried everything else, hasn’t he?
There are four outcomes to this theory:
1) He’s wrong and he wakes up Saturday morning like he has almost twenty times before, one more theory tested and crossed off the list.
2) He’s right and he wakes up Sunday morning with Shinsou and Aizawa alive and safe.
3) He’s right, but Shinsou and Aizawa make it to Sunday without him.
4) He’s right and Sunday arrives but all three of them are dead.
That final outcome scares him, but it’s the only plan he has left. And three of four aren’t bad odds.
Izuku blinks water out of his eyes. His skin is bruised pink and steam billows up around him. The too-hot water is making him feel lightheaded. He turns the water off, and just lays at the bottom of the shower until his head stops spinning and he feels like he can breathe again.
Izuku has thought about this before. He never seriously considered it, even when Kacchan told him to take a swan-dive off the roof, even when anonymous notes in his locker and black graffiti on his desk told him to go kill himself.
But he has thought about it. Idly, almost clinically, the same way he maps out hero fights.
He’d decided a long time ago that overdosing would be the best option. He doesn’t care about pain, but he does care about the mess. He could ride the train somewhere deserted, where no one would recognise him, where his mum wouldn’t find him, and quietly overdose somewhere abandoned. Most other methods had too many variables or would traumatised whoever found his body.
But the only strong medication on campus that he knows about is in Recovery Girl’s office, and if he takes those and isn’t revived, then he doesn’t want that on her conscience. And what if she faced legal repercussions because of him?
He’ll have to jump. Kacchan is always right, it seems. Even about this.
He dresses in the first clothes he grabs and shoves some notepaper and a pen in his pocket, and makes his way to the main building. It’s locked, but Izuku has broken into the building a dozen times before. The alarm is either disengaged or silent. It’s supposed to send an alert to Principal Nezu, surrounding hero agencies and emergency services, but no one has ever shown up.
He climbs the stairs all the way to the top of the building, and then sits down by the edge to write a quick note. He doesn’t want anyone to blame themselves for this.
He takes off his red shoes and socks and lines them up neatly by the edge. The note is folded up and placed inside his right shoe so it doesn’t blow away or get soaked in blood.
He steps onto the ledge. Takes a deep, grounding breath. And then a scarf wraps around his waist and jerks him back.
He collides with a hard body. He spins around, the scarf still around his waist, and finds Aizawa bearing down at him. He’s breathing hard, and his hands are digging into Izuku’s arms with bruising force, and he looks scared.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Izuku stares at him, dry-mouthed and numb. He’s not sure if he’s shaking or if Aizawa is or if the ground is titling beneath them.
“Nothing? I found you up on the ledge and that’s nothing?”
“Sorry,” Izuku says, shrinking in Aizawa’s hold. “I didn’t think you would—you’re supposed to be training with Shinsou.”
“If I hadn’t been … and if you had …” Aizawa seems, for the first time, at a loss for words.
“It’s okay, sensei.” Izuku tries to sound soothing, but the words come out mangled. Aizawa doesn’t have any memory of the past few weeks, unlike Izuku, so every day, it hits him fresh. Every death, Aizawa experiences for the first time without any context. He doesn’t have any explanation for this, either. “It’s not your fault. This isn’t what it looks like, it’s just the only way.”
Aizawa loosens his grip. Not enough for Izuku to squirm out of his hold and dash back towards the ledge, but enough that his grip doesn’t hurt anymore. “Let’s go back to the dorms. I’ll call your mum and—”
Izuku laughs, because he’s already tried that a hundred times before, and then his next breath is caught on a hiccup, and then he’s crying.
“There’s no point. There’s no other way to get to Sunday—” He claps a hand over his mouth to muffle a sob. Through his fingers, he manages, “I can’t watch you and Shinsou die again, sensei. Please don’t make me.”
Aizawa crouches down in front of him, studying Izuku’s face intently. He touches Izuku’s forehead and checks his pupils and runs his hands over his scalp, looking for bumps. He finds nothing.
Izuku has been checking himself over for any sign of tampering for weeks. But this is real. This is all so real.
“I’m not drugged,” Izuku says, exhausted.
“Then explain,” Aizawa says.
Izuku shakes his head, no.
He doesn’t fight when Aizawa gathers his shoes and herds them off the rooftop. Today is a write off. Maybe he can hide in his room so he won’t have to watch how today will end. It’s a selfish thought, but it makes him feel a little better.
Aizawa holds on to him as the elevator descends, even though there’s nowhere for him to go. The doors open. Shinsou is waiting for them on the other side, pale and tense. His wane face reminds Izuku of the first time Shinsou had to watch Aizawa die. He remembers crouching on the gym floor, clutching at Shinsou as they both shivered through the shock of it. Of promising Shinsou that he would save them.
“Are you okay?” Shinsou asks, then shakes his head as if answering his own question. “Sorry. Nevermind.”
Aizawa steers Izuku out of the elevator, towards the dorms. He feels like a balloon, bobbing aimlessly after its string.
At the dorms, Aizawa pushes him onto the sofa. Shinsou fetches him a glass of water, and Izuku sips at it, staring down at his still-bare feet. He can feel the expectant weight of both of their stares.
“What did you mean,” Aizawa begins, softer than he normally is, “when you said that killing yourself was the only way to get to Sunday?”
Izuku closes his eyes. He had hoped Aizawa hadn’t heard what he had said up on the roof. He sits there, the sweating glass pressed against his aching forehead, and thinks about what he could possibly say.
“Would you rather we talk in private?” Aizawa asks.
“It’s okay,” Izuku says, lowering his glass. “Shinsou can stay. I don’t care.”
They lapse back into silence. Izuku grasps blindly for an excuse to give them, but comes up blank.
Well, he supposes. They won’t remember this anyway.
“Jumping is the only way I can think to get to Sunday,” Izuku says. “I’ve tried everything else, but the day just keeps resetting.”
Aizawa twitches, as if he wants to reach over and check Izuku’s pupils again. Izuku smiles, but he just feels tired and sore and his mind keeps flicking back to the rooftop.
“What do you mean?” Aizawa says.
Izuku takes a deep breath, lets it out, and then tells them about three weeks worth of Saturdays.
He tells them about that first day, when he hadn’t realised anything was wrong. He tells them about the second and third, when he realised just how terrible their situation was. He tells them about all his theories and ideas and how none of them had worked and every day still ended in a death.
When he’s done, his voice is strained and his hands are shaking around the glass, threatening to spill water onto the couch cushions, so he puts it on the coffee table.
“That’s why I was up on that rooftop,” Izuku says, eyes fixed on his lap, too afraid to look at Shinsou or Aizawa and see their expressions. “All this time, I’ve never died. If the time loop is triggered by your death, then maybe my death is the way out.”
“No,” Aizawa says. “That’s not happening. You’re not resorting to that. What else have we tried?”
Izuku blinks muzzily up at him. “Huh?”
“You said we’ve been through twenty Saturdays. Were those all of our ideas? We can’t have exhausted every option.”
“I tried everything I could think of,” Izuku says.
“What about just staying in one position all day?”
Izuku grimaces. “I tried staying in my room all day, away from you both, but Shinsou called me that afternoon to tell me that you’d died. And I couldn’t get you and Shinsou to stay in one spot all day. I couldn’t think of a good enough reason to stop your training session, and every time I mentioned that there might be a villain attack, you went out to try and contact Nezu or sweep the grounds and ...”
Once, he’d made up a story about a villain attack. Aizawa had shoved Izuku and Shinsou into the emergency bunker under the dorms and then gone out by himself. When he didn’t come back, Izuku had gone looking for him—and found him behind a copse of trees, bleeding out. Izuku still isn’t sure what killed him.
Aizawa stares at him for a long moment. Izuku is too emotionally wrung out to decipher that strange, intense look on his teacher’s face.
And then Aizawa says, “How many times have you told me?”
Izuku blinks. “What?”
“How many times have you told me about the time loops? How many times have you lived through this day on your own?”
Shinsou sucks in a sharp breath on the other side of the couch. Izuku just cocks his head, confused, and says, “This is the first time you’ve found out.”
There’s a moment of silence.
Then Shinsou blurts, “What the fuck, Midoriya?”
Izuku picks at the ragged skin around his thumbnail. When he peers up at Aizawa, he’s incredibly still. Izuku can’t read the expression on his face.
“Sensei, are you okay?” Izuku says.
“Why?” Aizawa asks.
“Why?” Izuku echoes.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Oh. Well, I don’t know, I just ...”
It had never really occurred to him to tell them. He couldn’t waste time trying to convince them that he wasn’t attention-seeking or going insane. And he needed to solve this, instead of just being relocated to the bunker while the adult took care of everything.
In Izuku’s experience, teachers rarely took his accusations seriously. And if they did, they still couldn’t save him.
The teachers at his primary and middle school couldn’t save him from Kacchan or his classmates—though there hadn’t been many that would acknowledge that there was a problem in the first place. The UA staff weren’t able to protect them, though they tried. The League of Villains was always too strong, too close, with help too far away.
Izuku has always had to fight to protect himself and the people around him. Getting help has, until very recently, been a luxury.
“I wasn’t sure if you would believe me,” Izuku admits, still picking at his thumb. It’s beginning to bleed. “I had to save you, sensei. I couldn’t waste time.”
“You couldn’t waste time letting a pro hero know that something was wrong?” Shinsou’s voice cracks, though he doesn’t sound angry.
“I didn’t have time to hand the reins over to a pro hero. No offence, sensei, but your memory kept getting reset every day and I didn’t want you to take over. It was my job to save you.”
“Midoriya,” Aizawa says, and now Izuku can interpret that expression on his teacher’s face: it’s pain. Aizawa is in pain. “You’re sixteen. It’s not your job to fix this.”
Izuku grits his teeth. “I’m going to be a hero—”
Aizawa holds up a hand to stop him. “You’re a child. You’re my student. And you thought it was a better idea to kill yourself rather than tell me what was going on?”
“Well,” Izuku says, wiping his thumb on his sleeve to get rid of the pooling blood, “when you say it like that, it sounds pretty bad.”
Aizawa shuts his eyes. He takes a moment to just breathe, and Izuku wishes he could stuff all the words back into his mouth. He glances at Shinsou. He looks upset too.
They might not remember it, but Aizawa and Shinsou have been repeatedly hurt the past three weeks. They don’t need Izuku burdening them like this.
He’ll have to be better tomorrow. He’ll make sure Aizawa and Shinsou are busy training, and then he’ll head straight to the rooftop to take care of this.
When Aizawa opens his eyes again, looking more composed, he turns to Izuku. “We’re going to talk about this again when the danger has passed, but for now: promise me you’ll tell me if the day resets and I forget what you just told me.”
Izuku falters. “I-I don’t know if that’s a good idea.”
“Midoriya,” Aizawa says, sharp. “Izuku. Please.”
“We’ll believe you,” Shinsou says. “We will. I promise.”
Izuku glances between them. Their expressions are hard and there’s something burning in their eyes. They look angry, but it doesn’t look like they’re angry at him.
“Fine,” he relents. “I’ll tell you if I need to.”
“No,” Aizawa says. “You’ll tell me immediately.”
Izuku digs his nails into his thumb and it starts bleeding again. “Okay. Fine. I will.”
The rooftop will always be there, he figures. It will always be his backup plan.
Aizawa nods. “Okay, good. Now what do you want to do?”
“You’re the only one that remembers everything that’s happened. What do you think we should do?”
Izuku takes a moment to think it over.
“The bunker,” he decides. “Let’s all go down there and stay down there.”
The bunker was built under the dorms. In the event of a surprise attack on campus, students were supposed to head there. They’ve never had to use it until now.
He’d always wanted to use the bunker to keep Aizawa and Shinsou safe, but he could never get Aizawa to stay in it. Once, he’d gotten desperate and drugged them both before dragging them into the bunker. But Aizawa had woken up—far too early, even though Izuku had checked the doses over several times to make sure it would keep them down all day—and incapacitated Izuku, thinking he was a villain or was being controlled by one.
But this time, Aizawa agrees easily. They pack the barebones of supplies and head down to the bunker.
The strangest thing about being stuck in a time loop is how boring it can be. Before everything, Izuku hadn’t realised that he could feel like climbing out of his skin with anxiety, while also being mind-numbingly bored.
Right now, he doesn’t have the attention span to focus on reading or homework. If he tries to think more about his situation after the morning he’s had, he’s going to lose it and the last place he wants to break down is in a locked bunker with Aizawa and Shinsou.
So that just leaves talking to each other.
Shinsou is the one break the silence: “What happened yesterday?”
“What do you mean?” Izuku asks.
“You’ve tried so many other things,” Shinsou says. “And you’re smart. You could probably keep pulling theories out of your ass. I’ve seen you do it in fights often enough.”
“That’s different,” Izuku says weakly.
Shinsou shakes his head. “Something must have happened yesterday to make you wake up this morning and decide to go to such extreme measures.”
“Shinsou,” Aizawa warns.
“Sorry,” Shinsou says, shrugging, though he doesn’t take back the question.
Izuku fidgets with his hands, thinking the question over. They already know this much, he thinks, too tired to keep his secrets behind the teeth.
“I let myself think it was over,” he begins. “Yesterday was good. We all connected for the first time. Shinsou and I had a conversation that made us both evaluate how we saw each other.” He glances briefly at Shinsou. “Though I guess you don’t remember that.”
“And then the day reset again,” Aizawa finishes.
“Well, not quite. Then we came back to the dorms and a group of villains ambushed us and made you and I watch as they tortured Shinsou for thirty minutes.”
“Fuck,” Shinsou says, growing white.
“It was the first time someone else came on campus. Every other time had looked like an accident. An explosion, or a sudden fall, or a medical emergency. And it was the most brutal.”
“Izuku,” Aizawa says. “Are you alright?”
Izuku pulls on a smile out of habit. “What? I’m fine.”
“Shinsou was the one who was hurt. Well, you were killed after too, but Shinsou was the one they tortured. I’m not sure why exactly, since I’m the one in the Hero Course and the only one who retains any memory of—”
“Izuku,” Aizawa says again.
Izuku cuts himself off. He curls around his knees, hands gripping his ankles.
“No,” he admits. “No, I’m not okay. And I’m not going to be until we make it to Sunday alive.”
Or, at least, until Shinsou and Aizawa do.
Silence fills the bunker. Again, Shinsou breaks it: “Yesterday, what kind of conversation did we have?”
Izuku laughs nervously. “Well, I asked why you hated me. You must have thought I’d lost my mind. But it made me realise that we didn’t know each other, not really. We’ve both been making assumptions and not realising it.”
Shinsou’s shoulders tense, drawing away from Izuku, an action so small it almost looks subconscious. “What did assumption did you make about me?”
Izuku flaps a hand in the air. “Oh, you know. That you thought I was annoying and strange, and that you didn’t want to be friends because I’m me, and not because I’m a hero student. And maybe you do think I’m annoying. A lot of people do. I mean, I get it, I know I am. But I hadn’t realised you were wary of me because you’re a Gen Ed student coming into the Hero Course and didn’t expect to be welcome in Class 1-A.”
Izuku stops. If he keeps going, the momentum is going to carry him deep into incomprehensible muttering and in his current headspace, that could be dangerous.
“Sorry,” Izuku says. “Sorry.”
Shinsou stares at him. “I don’t think you’re annoying.”
When he’s not on the defensive, Shinsou can be so nice. How could he think he wouldn’t fit in in Class 1-A?
“It’s okay,” Izuku says. “You don’t need to do that. I just wanted you to know that don’t need to be wary around me. Or the rest of our class. Most of us will be happy to have you. Well, except for maybe Kacchan, but he looks down on almost everyone. And you should probably apologise to Ojirou, but otherwise, they’re all really nice.”
Aizawa has been keeping quiet in the corner, though Izuku can tell he’s watching them closely. This recontextualizes their old conversations, Izuku realises. In high school, Aizawa transferred from General Education to the Hero Course. He knows what it’s like to be in Shinsou’s place. And so maybe, all those times Izuku tried to intervene in training sessions or move their attention away from practise, Aizawa was just trying to look after Shinsou.
Shinsou still looks doubtful.
“I made assumptions about Class 1-A too,” Izuku confesses. He hadn’t realised that when he began spilling his secrets, it would be hard to stop. “I thought they wouldn’t like me either. But they’re all really friendly, I promise.”
Shinsou laughs, a raw and derisive sound. “You have a powerful quirk. Why wouldn’t they like you?”
Izuku pauses. Shinsou is sitting in one corner of the bunker, knees up against his chest, looking ready to either lash out or run even though they’re trapped inside the bunker together.
Izuku knows intimately what that is like.
“I was quirkless up until the entrance exams,” Izuku says. “Before UA, school had never been, uh—it had never been nice. I walked into Class 1-A with the same assumptions I had about my middle school classmates, and they all proved me wrong. They keep proving me wrong, every day.”
“Quirkless until high school,” Shinsou says, mysterifed. “Your quirk manifesting that late? That’s …”
“Impossible,” Aizawa finishes.
Izuku swallows. Suddenly, the ache inside his chest is unbearable.
“Yeah,” he says. “It is.”
It’s like something inside him, some kind of seal, has been broken: all his secrets come gushing out of him. Today is ephemeral. They’re not going to remember this when the day resets, so why not? Why not?
So Izuku tells them about One for All.
It feels so good to get everything out. He keeps talking until his mouth is dry and his eyes are drooping, purging himself of all the secrets that have been festering inside him. It feels so right, like cogs clicking into place, a lock finally being open.
Izuku rides the wave of euphoria, easily absorbing Shinsou and Aizawa’s shock and their many questions, until he can’t keep his eyes open.
He doesn’t even remember falling asleep.
When Izuku wakes up, the door to the bunker is open. Shinsou is gone. Aizawa is in the corner, sweeping something into a small bag.
Dust, Izuku realises. The entire bunker is covered in a powdery dust.
He sits up abruptly. Dust rains from his hair, his eyelashes, his chest. He lunges for Aizawa's phone, ignoring his teacher's many missed calls and notifications, fixated on the time and date.
Izuku doesn’t realise he’s crying until Aizawa crouches beside him, a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s okay,” Aizawa says. “We made it.”
“He’s alright. He’s just gone to have a shower and wash the dust off.”
Izuku chokes on another sob, bent over his knees. Aizawa rubs a hand up and down his back, and he can’t help but lean into it. Every time he tries to stop himself from crying, the tears come harder. It doesn’t feel therapeutic. It just hurts.
They’re alive. Aizawa and Shinsou made it to Sunday.
Izuku made it, too.
When he’s able to get his breathing under control, he mops up his tears with the sleeve of his sweatshirt and asks, “Do you still believe me?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“W-well, from your perspective I had a mental breakdown and made us sit in the bunker all day, even though nothing happened.”
Aizawa gestures at the dust blanketing the bunker like freshly fallen snow. “There’s been a string of unexplained deaths in Musutafu; five bodies found with no sign of injury, all of them covered in this dust. This has to be the same quirk. But no one has survived it. Until you.”
“So we would have all stayed dead,” Izuku realises, stomach sinking. “If I had jumped, we’d all be dead.”
Aizawa keeps his hand on Izuku’s back, grounding him. “We don’t think more than one person has been caught in the villain’s quirk before. We don’t know what would have happened. But we do know that you saved us. You did it, problem child.”
Aizawa doesn’t scold him when Izuku breaks down crying again, just keeps rubbing those soothing circles into his back and waits patiently for him to catch his breath.
“The person who did this is still out there,” Aizawa says, “but we’ll catch them. I promise.”
Izuku nods, feeling sticky with tears and snot, more exhausted than he’s been in his life.
He’s confused too. And angry.
“What do you think it was?” Izuku asks. “After everything I tried, why did the loop finally stop?”
“You told us,” Aizawa says. “You told us everything.”
Izuku scrubs a hand through his hair. A fresh shower of dust falls to the bunker floor. “I feel so useless. After everything, I can’t believe that was the way out.”
“We don’t know why or how this quirk works. We’ll figure it out. But Izuku, listen to me.” Aizawa moves his hand from Izuku’s back to his shoulder. His eyes suddenly seem so much more intense. He’s not using his quirk but Izuku feels pinned in place. “I promise I’ll believe you. If something like this happens again, or if something or someone is hurting you, or you just need someone to turn to: I promise I’ll believe you.”
Izuku had thought he was too exhausted for anymore tears.
He was wrong.