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Izuku Midoriya hated bursting into flames during class. 

His throat tickled as flames built up. His eyes watered as he felt the pressure behind them. In the desk in front of him, his best friend rolled his eyes and ducked. 

Fire roared out of his nose and washed over Katsuki Bakugo's back.

For a moment, his classmates just stared. Katsuki was the resident King of the Class, and he wasn't shy about flexing some muscle to keep it that way. After a tense moment, a few nervous chuckles erupted.

"DEKU!" Katsuki yelled, turning around to slam his hands down on the meek boy's journal. "Get a hold of yourself! Don't let them laugh at you like that!"

"S-sorry Kacchan!"

"Who do you think you're apologizing to, dumbass?"

Izuku buried his face in his arms as Katsuki growled a threat at the rest of the class. 

"Now, now, Mister Bakugo. There's no need to be rude to your classmates."

"They're beneath me and Deku, and don't you forget it!"

Their teacher had heard the spiel a hundred times. Luckily, the explosive teen would be onto high school in a few months, and then his classes would go back to being calm. Right? Middle schoolers weren't all like him. 

"I remember. You're planning on trying out for U.A., right? I have some good news, in that case!"

The room seemed to tilt as everyone leaned forward.

"Today, we're talking about your upcoming high school careers!"

Groans filled the air and a few students looked longingly out the window. Cicadas rasped outdoors, hinting at the heat of summer and freedom from long lectures.

"You're all pretty much planning on the hero course though!"

Cheers abounded as the teacher threw his papers into the air behind him.

"As a teacher, I can't say how proud I would be to see one of my students reach the top. This is just your high school, though! I know you all want to be great heroes, and if you really try, you can be! But you must think realistically,” the man said, pacing back and forth in front of the now-enthralled class. He pointed to the back row where the bully’s favorite student sat. “For example, using your natural abilities! Izuku, for example, might become a teacher like me. I know he's got the smarts where his quirk might make hero work difficult."

The boy in question felt his face heat up and crossed his arms over his desk, burying his face in them. Blushing, for him, was always a dangerous prospect. With a quirk like his, rosy cheeks meant fire and a few weeks of serious burns. As the people around him flaunted their quirks, he glanced down at his journal. The kid whose neck could elongate would be useful for gathering intel. Similarly, the boy whose eyeballs popped out of their sockets and extended could peer around corners or assist with relief efforts by locating victims. Everyone he knew had a quirk that was useful somehow.

Not Izuku. Hard though he tried to make sense of his own quirk, hero work didn’t seem realistic, and there just wasn’t a precedent for quirkless heroes. Taunts from years past reminded him that the best he was capable of was keeping people warm for a few seconds before he burned himself to a crisp. They’d told him he ought to light a match and get it over with.

Of course, Kacchan would never let them get away with that sort of thing. His friend was amazing! Being resistant to the force of his own explosions made him a force to be reckoned with. Until his sixth journal, he’d had at least twenty pages of notes - per journal - about ways to use such a powerful ability.

What his friend saw in him, he wasn’t sure, but he was glad to have someone to lean on. Even if it was like leaning on a rosebush, he’d just toughen his skin and ignore when his friend was a prick. 

After such a public dismissal of his future in hero work, Izuku was surprised to hear Kacchan’s silence. His friend’s lack of self control normally outweighed his respect for authorities, and it wouldn’t be the first time he verbally sparred with a teacher in defense of Izuku. 

He pulled himself together and sat up. Kacchan was still facing forward, but his ears were red, a sure sign that his anger was simmering just under the surface. Despite himself, Izuku smiled. It had taken a while, but maybe his friend was finally growing up.

Before he knew it, the class was over, and he threw pencils and spare sheets into his backpack before carefully sliding his journal into its place. Hero Analysis for the Future v.13, the smudged cover read. 

As his class shuffled out the door, Izuku flipped through the mental encyclopedia he’d built up. Kacchan’s thirty pages of combat applications from Hero Analysis v.1 , Hawks’ sixteen pages on rescue operations from v.3 … 

“Hey! Deku! Come on, dude. I have shit to do.”

His friend’s rude voice broke him from his musings and he quickly swept the remainder of his things into his bag, sealing it up and jogging to the door. 

“Jeez. I swear, if I didn’t keep you in check, you’d stand there strategizing the best way to beat ceiling tiles in a fight,” Kacchan said, slinging his bag over one shoulder.

“Y-yeah, sorry about that. I was thinking about adding a few pages to the Special Edition.”

“Wait, you were serious about that?” Kacchan stopped still in his tracks, catching Izuku off guard, whose arms flailed for an instant as he balanced. “Dude, do you really need a whole book worth of notes on All Might and Endeavor?”

“Can I fit them all in one book?” Izuku fired back.

“Alright. Whatever, nerd,” Katsuki said. They rushed down the stairs and out the door, where the blonde boy reached up and brushed his spiky locks of hair away from his forehead. He left his arms crossed behind his head as he took in the sun, frowning as he felt the shadow of the school building pass over them.

“I’ve been thinking about trying out a new skate path around here,” he said, pirouetting as he stepped. Walking backwards without a care in the world was sort of his modus operandi , and he figured if he bumped into something he could probably beat its ass. “This underpass up here is pretty well shaped for it. When I get my provisional license I’m gonna try boosting myself over the street and onto the ramps.”

“Are you sure you want to try it around here? If you hit the ground too fast you could get scraped up pretty badly. And that sewer grate is right in the middle of the path.”

“Relax, dude. I’m not gonna meat crayon myself over a bad angle.”

Izuku shuddered as the smell of the sewer hit him, and maybe a little at the terminology his friend used. Meat crayon? Really? Could anything conjure up something more hideous? Wisely, he kept his thoughts to himself. There wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Kacchan didn’t have a worse analogy.

Katsuki noticed the face his friend made and grinned. Meat crayon was definitely going in his dictionary of “words to make Izuku uncomfortable”. 

The smell hit him, followed by a half-inch thick steel sewer grate.

“Kacchan!” Izuku screamed, tripping over his feet as he tried to simultaneously look behind him and check on his friend.

“Oh, good! A medium sized invisibility cloak!” a gurgling voice yelled behind him.

Now, Izuku was no slob in the athletics department. His reflexes were sharp as a knife from growing up around Kacchan. His ability to dodge projectiles and punches was second to none in his class. Even with his instincts screaming “duck!” Izuku wasn’t fast enough. A green fist of liquid slammed into his back, driving him into the concrete before yanking him up.

This was no playground bully they were dealing with. This was a bonafide villain.

Immobilized as he was, Izuku did his natural thing: he took notes. Mental notes, of course, because his backpack and journal had been launched forty feet by the force of the slimy liquid slamming into him.

From where he was, his assailant appeared to be about ten feet tall and broad. His vaguely humanoid shape sparkled in the sun, revealing his translucent nature. His intentions were just as easily seen through.

Izuku was going to die and it was going to hurt the whole time he was dying. Slime forced its way down his throat, violating his sinuses through his nose and ears. It was similar to what he imagined diving into a ripe dumpster felt like, and it smelled about as pleasant. His back popped multiple times as his torso expanded slightly. 

“Struggle as much as you like, kid, the sooner you run out of oxygen, the sooner we’re both better off.”

Something, hopefully nothing less mundane than a bit of leaf detritus, tickled his throat and made its way too high. Izuku gagged as it touched his uvula and immediately sneezed, fire roaring out of his nose and sending muck flying. 

“You sneeze fire? I might just let you live and take over blondie’s body! What kind of useless quirk is that?”

While the villain waxed poetic about how shitty Izuku’s quirk was, the boy himself took a breath of fresh, sewer-tainted air.
Don’t I know it. At least sneezing fire comes in handy once in a while. If only my outsides were as resistant as my insides.


If I’m surrounded by liquid, and I activate my quirk… Maybe the heat will dissipate faster than my skin can burn?

Worth a shot.

For a moment, nothing happened, and he panicked. Had it been that long? Did he not remember how to use his own quirk? 

An instant of self-doubt later, and his skin roared to life. His captor screamed in fury and pain as he boiled away, bubbles of steam erupting out of his skin. Izuku felt himself forcibly ejected, and as he spun through the air, he saw the edge of the sewer approach. At a speed like this, he’d splatter. At least the cleanup would be easy.

“Oh, dear! I’m late!” a man’s voice boomed as Izuku felt a pair of strong arms grab him, setting him on the ground. “I can’t let you harm any more civilians!” 

Izuku shook his head like a wet dog, sending goo spiraling off his hair before he looked up at his savior. He blinked once, twice, and promptly decided he was hallucinating.

“There’s no need to worry, I am here!”

He tilted his head to the side and hit the other side, trying to get the gunk out of his ears. Really, this was ridiculous. His ears were so clogged it was beginning to sound like All Might was here.

“Texas Smash!”

Izuku wasn’t in the direct path of the punch, but the force of wind it generated left his hair straightened backwards and his whole body dried. 

“A-ALL MIGHT?” Izuku stuttered.

The hero looked down at the boy, gave him a thumbs up, and smiled. “Yes! That’s me! I’m sorry you got caught up in my villain-chasing. This guy is slippery!”

It was hard to look directly at the man. Seven feet tall and with a physique that would make a Greek god envious, he was the pinnacle of the human form. Steam seemed to waft off his skin as he collected the villain’s eyes and mouth, the only physical parts of his liquid form. 

“You seem like a bright young man,” he said. His tone of voice was different than Izuku was used to from the hero clips, more conversational. Hearing him like this was strange, making him seem more man than myth.

“Y-yeah, I… I want to be a hero. My friend does too,” Izuku said, poking his cheeks. “Wait, Kacchan! Where is he?” 

“Oh, dear. I must be growing unobservant.”

All Might tightened the cap on a holding container for the villain before rocketing off, searching for the boy’s friend. 

Damn, damn, damn. I can’t just leave a possibly-injured civilian like this, but I’m running out of time!

From the corner of his eye, he saw a boy slumped against the concrete. A metal plate rested against his chest. His face was disturbingly relaxed, despite the blood oozing from a cut over his eye. The rise and fall of his chest was uneven and quick, which didn’t look good.

To take a hit like that and still be breathing… I’m lucky it wasn’t someone else.

He scooped the boy up and tore down the road to the green-haired boy, his breathing quickening. The last time he’d cut it this close, there hadn’t been injured civilians.

“This is terribly unceremonious, but-” 

As All Might reached Izuku, Katsuki’s eyes blinked open, completely unfocused and enraged.

“Get the fuck off me! Stay away from him!” Katsuki screamed, sending an extremely surprised number one hero flying with an explosion.

“Kacchan!” Izuku shouted, pulling his friend to the ground. 

His friend stared at him in confusion for a moment, before grimacing and reaching up to his head, seeing blood on his fingers when he drew them away. 

The smoke began to clear and trailed off All Might’s tall form.

“Hell of a kick, kid. It’s alright,” the hero said, falling to a knee. “I’m not here to hurt you. I dealt with the villain.”

Katsuki’s mouth fell open in shock as he saw who he’d “defended” Izuku from. His fingers went lax, his eyes rolling backward in his head as he fainted once more.

Izuku caught his friend before he could hit the concrete and looked to All Might for help.

“A-all Might?” he stammered as his mind raced for an explanation of the sight that met him.

It was like watching a person flex a muscle in reverse. All Might’s body shook as it shrank, the steam flowing from his skin seeming to carry away his strength. “Are you alright?”

“I’ll be fine, kid. This is just a bit awkward. I don’t blame him for panicking, but he hit an old wound,” he said, pulling up his shirt to reveal a spiderweb of scarring on his side. 

“Is that from when you fought Toxic Chainsaw?”

All Might’s eyes brightened a bit. “Quick on the draw! It’s not, but that’s an excellent guess. The fight that caused this wasn’t publicized.”

“A villain who could do that to you… who could do this to you…“ Izuku muttered, thinking as hard as he could. “I’ve seen rumors, but the only villain I’ve heard of that could have crippled you… was it a villain from before your debut?”

All Might couldn’t help but make a noise in surprise, which quickly turned into coughing and hacking. Droplets of blood splattered against the ground. “You really are a sharp one! I can’t tell you what went down, but that’s the closest I’ve heard anyone come.”

Izuku shone with the praise, before frowning once more and standing up. He cradled his unconscious friend in his arms.

“I’m sorry we got in the way.”

“Don’t be. I’m sorry I wasn’t stronger. Do you know how old I turn this year?”

“Fifty! Your birthday is-”

“Slow down! I’m not as young as I used to be, in any case. I’ve been looking for someone to succeed me as the number one hero. I like that Hawks guy an awful lot, his skill in rescues surpasses my own. Even in my golden age, I would have struggled to keep up with him,” All Might said, putting a baseball cap on and beckoning Izuku to walk next to him. Kacchan’s weight slowed him down, and Izuku thanked his lucky stars he didn’t skip gym classes. It was strange to see his idol deflated, and with the cap, he was unrecognizable.

Seeing the worried expression on the boy’s face, All Might smiled. “Don’t worry about your friend. Based on what he hit me with, he seems sturdy. To be able to stand his ground while letting out that much force…”

“Kacchan is tough. He reminds me of you sometimes. He’s got a super powerful quirk, and he never loses fights. I wish he didn’t start so many, though,” Izuku said, nervously twirling a finger through a curl in his hair.

“You really look up to him, I suppose?” 

“More than almost anyone. You and Endeavor are two of my biggest inspirations, but he’s probably the third highest person on my hero ranking. I think I’ll end up being his sidekick one day.”

“You’re going to be a sidekick?” All Might said, his pace faltering for a moment. “I think you’d do well on your own. You actually remind me a bit of how I was when I was younger.”

It was Izuku’s turn to stumble. “Really? How? I’m just a nerd who can control and make a bit of fire. I can’t even keep myself from getting burned.”

“You know, I wasn’t born with this q- I mean, when I was younger, I didn’t think my quirk was anything special.”

“It has to be, right? You got this far!”

“I did, but it wasn’t just because I have a good quirk. Think about it. If you were able to generate so much force, how would you use it? Most people would just think to use it for close combat, and I thought so too. I didn’t even think about using the force of the wind it creates until I was so strong that I had to hold myself back.”

“Not that I’m not appreciative, but… why are you telling me this? I’m just a fan off the street.”

“You looked like you could use a pep talk. Besides, you’ve seen me like this now. I should probably ask you to keep this a secret. There aren’t many others who know about it.”

“I’ll keep your secret, sir! Don’t worry about it. I don’t think most people would believe me even if I did tell them. I mean, there are a few people online who have been speculating about it, and how your public appearances have been decreasing for the past few years, but most just chalked it up to aging.”

All Might’s eyebrows rose. This kid was definitely well informed. 

Izuku felt his cheeks brighten when he realized how quiet All Might had become. “Sorry. But… Why the stories?”

“Oh, that. Well, I’m trying to say you should look at your quirk from a different perspective. Your logical reasoning is clearly sound, but it’s always hardest to see oneself in the best light. Your quirk probably has applications you’ve never even thought of! Actually, would you mind telling me a bit about your quirk?”

“O-oh, it’s not much. I haven’t even named it. It’s just listed as a heat generation quirk, without any resistance to fire. If I’m being honest, it seems like fire actually hurts me more than it hurts most people. I can just heat up my skin, and if I make it hot enough, I can create fire. I, uh, can also sneeze fire, if that’s useful.”

“Hmm. You seem to know more about me than you know about yourself!” All Might chuckled. “Do you know the limit of how hot your quirk can go?”

“I’ve never pushed it that far. My skin can’t take it, and my mom doesn’t like the idea of me hurting myself while I test it.”

“Your arms don’t look like they’ve got any burn scars.”

“What about it?”

“Well, if you’ve pushed your arms hot enough to produce fire, surely you would have burned yourself pretty badly. Maybe your arms are more resistant than you think?”

“Well, after I did that, they were pretty burned. I think I just heal really fast.”

“That would be worth looking into! Training a quirk like that could make you pretty hard to beat.”

They stopped as they passed a park next to the closest police station. 

“I never thought I’d be here talking to you like this. I’m not as awed as I thought I would be. No offense! I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just-”

“You’re fine! No offense taken. I know I’m pretty different from my hero persona.”

“You’re just as amazing! I never really thought about what you must be like when you’re not at work.”

All Might grimaced, lacing his arms behind his head. “If you want to be a hero now, you should know that you’ll never have privacy again. I haven’t been out of the eye of the media since I graduated from high school!”

“That explains your disguise, I guess. Who knew a hat could make you so much harder to spot?”

“Definitely the hat,” the hero said drily. “It has nothing to do with the fact that I weigh a fifth as much as I look like I do.”

“W-well, yeah, that too. I know about how public a hero’s life is, though. Kacchan and I are planning on applying to U.A. at the end of this year.”

“Oh, you’d be about that age, wouldn’t you? I think you can make it into the school!”

“Really?” Izuku said, beginning to smile. 

“Yup! Actually, I’ve got a lot of off time for now. I might even teach you a thing or two while I’m in the area!”

If not for Kacchan waking up right then, Izuku would have fallen over. He hadn’t been expecting an offer to learn from All Might today!

“What- where the hell are we, Deku? What hit me?” he said, doubled over.

“Careful, young man. You were hit pretty hard by a piece of metal.”

It took Katsuki a moment to place the voice he heard, and his legs collapsed again when he remembered what had happened earlier.

“All Might?” he said, before looking up. Much to his disappointment, the man before him was way too thin to be the hero.

“Well, shit. I suppose I’ll have to add another person to the list of people who know what I look like these days.”

“You’re not All Might,” Kacchan growled, rolling his eyes in disbelief.

“You don’t remember anything after you hit him, do you?” Izuku said, grabbing his friend by the shoulders. Kacchan turned to face him, and Izuku looked in his eyes. “I think you have a concussion.”

“Are you trying to say that this guy is All Might?”


The man in question sighed. “Well, it’s too late to pretend like I’m not.”

“If you’re All Might, why are you so damn skinny?”

All Might repeated his earlier actions, lifting his shirt to show the edge of the brutal scar he’d received years earlier. “Six years ago, I was in a fight with the most powerful villain in Japan. He destroyed most of my lung and digestive tract. The surgeries that saved my life left me crippled, and I’ve withered away since then. I can only hold that form for about two hours a day at this point.”

“I guess it’s been getting worse, then?” the teen responded, unsurprised. This was the sort of occupational hazard a hero took on when they chose to become one.

“Yeah. By the end of the next year, I might have to retire. Actually, I’ve… I shouldn’t tell you kids this. You plan on applying to U.A., don’t you?” 

The boys nodded, gears turning in their heads as they began to come to a realization.

“You plan on working for U.A.!” Izuku shouted, excitedly putting the pieces together.

“You- I mean, n-no, that’s not-” All Might spluttered. “Keep it down, jeez. It’s a secret. You’re too clever for your own good.”

Izuku laughed. “I’m surprised more people haven’t figured it out! It’s your alma mater, isn’t it?”

“That it is,” All Might said as they reached the police station. “I may have to leave you here. I have to get this villain behind bars, and your friend here needs to be looked at by a medical professional. I’m trained well enough, and I think he’s just got a concussion, but you can never be too sure.”

Izuku’s smile began to fade as he realized his time with his idol was coming to an end. “W-wait, before you go, can I get an autograph?” Izuku said, holding out his notebook. Asking for an autograph after all that meaningful conversation just felt strange.

Luckily, All Might took it in stride. “Of course! I’d be glad to. It’ll probably help explain why you’re late getting home! Come to think of it, I should probably get a parent’s phone number for the police report, and I can talk to them to maybe save you some trouble.” 

Izuku’s face paled as he realized how late he was. He thanked the hero profusely and wrote his mother’s phone number on a sheet in his most recent journal, handing it to the man so he could copy it down - and so he could sign his autograph on the next two pages.

By the time Izuku and Kacchan were released by the nurse, two things of note had happened: the sun had gone down, and Mitsuki Bakugou had arrived to take them home. She’d been understandably concerned about her son, though she had a funny way of showing it - pulling him into a headlock and rubbing his head with her knuckles was probably not the best way to handle a concussed kid. 

“Leave me alone, you damn hag! I have a headache!” 

She relented, but only so she could push him into the car next to Izuku. “Keep an eye on him back here, won’t you?”

They drove in relative silence for a few minutes, interrupted only by the bumps of the road and Mitsuki humming the words to a quiet song on the radio. Katsuki brooded in the corner as well as he could in the car, growing angrier every time Izuku looked at him. 

“The fuck are you looking at?” 

“Sorry,” Izuku said, turning the other way. Typical Kacchan, turning down any form of concern. Was he not allowed to be concerned for his friend who’d just had his brain scrambled?

“Stop worrying about me, dipshit. You’ve hit me harder than that thing.”

“Play nice at least until we get Izu home or I’ll hit you harder than that thing,” Mitsuki said, throwing a smile in the rearview for them. Her “empty threat but I’ll throw a sandal at you” smile was only a little terrifying and shut them both up.

“You’re welcome to come home with us if you want, Izu. Masaru would love to have another quiet soul around,” his adoptive aunt said as he opened the door, a foot already on the street.

“Maybe this weekend, but you know how my mom is,” he spoke, walking around the back of the car to the sidewalk.

“I’ll bet you five bucks she’s gone through a box and a half of tissues by now,” Katsuki said, rolling down his window. 

Izuku waved goodbye as they pulled away, Mitsuki threatening her son with various punishments for getting into trouble again. After such a strange evening, hearing something as normal as the Bakugou family squabbles was welcome.

He trudged up the stairs, wincing lightly at a pulled muscle in his hip. The six flights of steps were familiar, and Izuku was almost thankful for them giving him some alone time so he could compose how he’d tell his mom about the events. 

“Hi mom! I may have had a run-in with an evil slime monster and learned the most important secret of my life, which could endanger the public and the number one hero if it were to leak, and that makes us probably a target for villains!”

That definitely wouldn’t work. He shuddered, and it had nothing to do with the breeze blowing down the hall. His keys jingled merrily as he unlocked the door, walking in and hearing a loud thump from the kitchen.

“Mom? I know I’m late, but can we talk for a moment?”

A second passed as he took off his shoes before the strangeness of the situation hit him. 


The lack of very-distressed-mother in his face was concerning. Any of the previous times he’d been late, his mom almost broke his bones with a hug the second he walked in. 

The thump he heard was much more ominous now, and he speed-walked to the kitchen.

“Mom!” he yelled, kneeling down to where Inko Midoriya was passed out on the floor. Her eyes fluttered open, confused for just a moment, before she gasped and sat up. 

“I-izuku! The phone! He- All Might-”

“Slow down!” 

Inko took a deep breath, shakily standing up and taking her phone from where it rested on the counter. She steeled her nerves, turned to Izuku, and held the phone out before her.


“Huh?” he said, taking the phone and holding it to his ear. “Hello?”

“Good evening, young man! I hadn’t expected to hear from you so soon. Is- is your mother alright?”

Izuku gave his mother a look out of the corner of his eye. “She’s fine. I should have warned her that you would be calling, she’s a little… touchy?”

Inko pouted.

“Well, whatever the case, I’m glad to get this chance so soon. Would you like to meet me at the beach park on Saturday morning? I think it would be a good opportunity to get you started.”

“O-of course! I would love that!”

“Good! We’ll start at 7 AM. Could you hand the phone back to your mother, though? I do need to talk to her.”

The look on her face told him no , she was not prepared to talk to the number one hero, and she needed to lie down. “I don’t think that’s a good idea. She’s pretty shaken. Um… maybe call tomorrow? Or I can relay it to her?”

“Ah, it’s not that important. I suppose I can just get the details later. I hope I haven’t caused you too much trouble!”

The two of them talked for several more minutes before Izuku realized that All Might, apparently, was too awkward to hang up. Finally, they ended the call and Izuku brought the phone - and a glass of ice water - to his mother. 

Concussion or no, Katsuki was back to normal the next day. His mom had suggested Deku walk him home, which meant he had to ditch his friend the second he got the chance. The idea of someone thinking he was too weak to protect himself was absurd in his eyes.

Psh. Like Deku was gonna do much if he was attacked by a villain. As useful as his notes were, being a human torch was worse than useless. If his friend got into a tussle with anyone more threatening than a house cat, Katsuki would have to worry about dragging his friend away while also kicking ass.

Honestly, what was his mom thinking? She knew what he got up to after school. Today was no different. No stupid head injury was going to stop him for more than an hour or two.

His mouth tightened into a thin line as a car alarm echoed down an alley next to him.

Even as strong as he was, he still felt the pain of said stupid head injury. His brain was pounding, but rule number one of being a hero was not giving up, especially when it hurt.

His pace quickened as he looked down the side streets his old friends frequented. This was where they came to smoke and trade something more illicit, which didn’t bother Katsuki. Trying drugs wasn’t for him, since the best heroes in the world were clean, but he didn’t give a shit what his friends got up to.

It wasn’t a problem until the jackass with a finger modification quirk tried to pickpocket him. Deku would probably try to sympathize with the guy and make up some bullshit about having similarly useless quirks, and try to make the guy reform himself. Personally, Katsuki wasn’t the therapy and rehab sort of guy. That’s why he was here, walking like a thug up to the group of teens on the corner. 

“Hey,” he said, staring into the soul of Bendy-Fingers.

“Oh! H-hey, Kacchan,” the dark-haired boy responded, drumming his comically-long fingers against his pant leg. “You here for some weed or what?”

“Let’s make this quick. You’re gonna give me the shit you stole, or I’m gonna bruise you up and turn you in to the police. I’ll give you thirty seconds before I blow something up.”

“You can’t just walk in here and make demands like that! Who the fuck do you think you are?” said one of the boys. He was taller than the rest of them by a few inches, with a much broader body. Based on his bloodshot eyes and sarcastic tone of voice, Katsuki was pretty sure this guy was high, and almost definitely their supplier. He probably attended one of the local secondary schools.

The blonde narrowed his eyes and his fingertips crackled with puffs of smoke. “Fifteen seconds.”

The tall kid walked forward and put a hand on Katsuki’s shoulder, doing his best to look menacing. The shorter boy’s complete lack of reaction was unnerving.


“I don’t like beating up middle schoolers, but if you try something, I’ll make an exception.”

“Y-yeah! Fuck off! You can’t fight all of us.”

As his mental timer ticked down, Katsuki began to grin. It would have been better to do this the easy way, but the hard way was a lot more fun. 

The dealer was the first to drop, his reflexes too slow to avoid getting the legs swept out from under him. Katsuki grabbed him by the front of the shirt to keep him from hitting the curb too hard, before dropping him and kicking Bendy Fingers into a light pole. Two explosion-laced punches sent Dumb and Dumber to the pavement.

The last guy put his hands in the air and sank to his knees. “P-please! I don’t even know these guys!”

“Well, you didn’t say that earlier. Get your ass up.”

“You’re not gonna hurt me?”

“No, it looks like you already pissed yourself. I’m a hero student, not a fucking psychopath.”

The boy got up and ran for the first few steps before slowing to a pathetic walk. Katsuki sneered derisively at the smell of urine, and the thoroughly thrashed combatants groaned behind him. 

“This was your choice, not mine,” he said, slamming his hand into the light pole right by the pickpocket’s face. “Just pay up and stop being a crook.”

The boy whimpered and pulled out his wallet, rifling through it and handing him the money. Katsuki stalked back down the street, wincing with every step as his head protested. Behind him, he heard someone stand up.

“You don’t understand what it’s like! This is all my quirk’s good for! You were blessed with something amazing like that!” the thief cried. The effect was ruined by the tears pooling in his eyes.

“Look, dickhead, not everybody is cut out for hero work,” Katsuki said, looking over his shoulder. “Be a police officer. Be a desk worker. I don’t fucking care, do something worthwhile with your life. Stay at home and smoke all day if it makes you happy. Just pray you don’t cross paths with me as a criminal.”

Izuku rested his hands on his knees and took deep, measured breaths as he watched the sun rise. Perhaps running all the way from home to the beach wasn’t the best idea. In his defense, he had reason to be enthusiastic: he would be meeting All Might here in half an hour. 

He’d woken up two hours ago, shortly before the sun began rising, and made a quick breakfast and a pot of coffee that his mom had greatly appreciated. A shower and some stretches later, he sat down to catch up on the news, and his eyes glazed over at the details.

His fingers tapped excitedly at his thigh, his armrest, his desk… Nothing was good enough to distract him from what he was getting up to today. By the time the sun was over the horizon, he’d practically worn a hole in his carpet from pacing. A good run would get his nerves down, right?

Or at least, that’s what he had expected. Izuku wasn’t the fastest kid on the block, nor did he have the best lung capacity. In the wake of the slime villain, he was still feeling stuffed up. 

Not that it would stop him, of course. He still wasn’t entirely sure he hadn’t died and gone to heaven when he was attacked. It was definitely easier to believe than actually meeting All Might.

Below him was the beach, and he was beginning to realize what his new mentor might have meant by “training”.

“Beach” was a kind word to describe the scene in front of him. That word conjured images of white sand, crystal blue waters, and relaxing chairs under a palm tree.

No, this spot was almost as polluted as the city’s landfill. If he hadn’t grown up in the area he might even think the beach was the landfill. Old cars and appliances stood in rusting monuments to human wastefulness, and the closest thing to white sand that he could see was bits of paper and plastic shredded to oblivion.

Public service would be his training. It made sense. Still, he couldn’t imagine one person cleaning this much rubbish away. Maybe All Might himself, but he had a sneaking suspicion that he was intended to clean it all up by himself. 

“My boy! You’re here awfully early.”

Izuku yelped and stood upright like his spine was full of steel. “A-”

An instant later, Toshinori’s leather briefcase hit him in the back of the head. “Not in public, kid! I should have warned you.”

“Yeah, that makes sense! Sorry!” Izuku said, rubbing the sore spot through his hair. “What-”

“Just Toshinori. That’ll keep things simple,” All Might said. “Well, we’re a little earlier than I’d anticipated, but that’s a good thing! I don’t suppose you’d know anywhere to sit down on the beach?”

“There’s a little pavilion near the jetty with some picnic tables. I don’t think anyone’s been there in years, though.”

“We’ll see, then!”

Izuku stood there for an uncomfortable moment. What was All Might waiting for?

“Aaah! Sorry! I’ll take you there now,” the boy yelled, his face heating up to dangerous levels. “S-so, is there a reason you chose this beach in particular? I have an idea, but I want to hear your plan first.”

“I’m sure whatever your idea is, it’s right. I want you to clean this beach before the entrance exam at U.A.!”

“Yeah, that’s about what I expected, but… How am I supposed to clean all of this by myself? And why?”

“The answer to your first question is that you’ll get stronger over the next few months, and that’s also the answer to your second question! You’ve got this!”

They arrived at the pavilion, passing between mounds of trash and twisted metal to see a faded white structure standing before the ocean. If not for the submerged garbage and the smell, it might have been a beautiful place to visit.

They sat down, and Toshinori opened his briefcase. A paper flew off on a breeze, but Izuku snatched it out of the air and held it down.

“Good reflexes! You’ll need those,” Toshinori smiled, pulling the rest of his papers out. “These will tell you what to eat, when to sleep, when and how to work out… You get the gist! It’s the Hero Training for Dummies Edition.” 

“They’ve got a Hero Training edition now?” 

“Not the point! We should get started sooner than later, so I’ll let you look through these on your own time.”

“I would have brought my bag if I knew you were going to these lengths! Sorry!” Izuku stammered, his ears steaming.

“No problem! Actually, you can keep the briefcase, too. I’ve got two or three of them back at my office, and my secretary keeps telling me they’re unnecessary.”

Izuku chuckled nervously as he gathered the plans, scanning them as he organized them. He was a fast reader, and these weren’t particularly difficult. From what he could see, though, he wouldn’t have any free time until the day before the exam. 

“Alright! Let’s go!” Toshinori said, running over to the nearest pile of trash and clambering on top of an abandoned refrigerator. “Pull this to the park entrance!”

“H-huh? Already?”

“You want to make it into U.A., right? We have no time to spare!”

Chapter Text

Being strong was a new experience for Izuku.

Lifting half his body weight and carrying it up a flight of stairs, without trouble, was definitely not something he was used to. As he hefted the chunk of steel into the truck, he took a moment to gaze out over the sand.

Three months ago, none of it had been visible. His body wasn’t the only thing improving; the beach was starting to look more like a hangout spot and less like a dump. At least now there were spots to sit down on something nicer than a suspicious microwave. Izuku had more than learned his lesson after he’d been shocked in the rear by one.

Toshinori would be back soon. He’d stepped away to make a call a few minutes ago, but he’d said it wouldn’t take that long.

A hand on his shoulder made the boy jump.

“Goodness gracious, boy! You really don’t pay attention to your surroundings, do you?”

“Al- Sir! Uh, no, I…” Izuku trailed off, his face steaming.

“Ah, cool yourself off. We don’t want a repeat of the microwave incident.”

Izuku rubbed the back of his neck as he remembered his face briefly igniting. “So, um… What was that call about?” he asked, desperately searching for a distraction.

“It was good news, actually. I don’t suppose you’ve got anything planned for the rest of the day?”

“Just exercises and that sort of stuff! My mom asked me to run to the store, but I assume you’ve just made plans for me?”

“I did indeed. I’ve gotten permission from the principal to allow you onto campus for a sort of field trip! I call it the American Dream: Get To Know Your Future School field trip!”

Izuku’s face slackened as he realized the man was totally serious. He’d be visiting U.A.? Was that seriously the name of the trip? Did All Might think the trip needed a name in the first place?

His brain snapped back to the important question at hand: was he actually visiting his dream school with no advance notice?

“When are we going?”

“Now!” Toshinori said, grabbing the boy and rocketing off at the speed of sound.

Izuku tried to scream, but whatever noise he made was lost to the wind.

The cityscape reminded Izuku of the concrete at the beach park: gray, but with little gems of color embedded in it. That was, until a building rose up to meet them, and Toshinori landed, laughing with more than a tinge of professional sadism before launching off once more.

Gray turned to green before finally they passed over a wall and came skidding to a halt in front of a reception building.

Izuku groaned, trying to remember where his lungs were supposed to be. He felt like he’d left them behind somewhere a few miles back.

Toshinori had reverted back to skinny form by now, and was breathing heavier than he had any right to. “Give me,” Izuku said, “a little more warning next time.”

With that, he collapsed, catching himself before he hit the ground. He rolled onto his back and stared at the still-orange morning clouds as the sun rose behind the building.

His mentor chuckled, coughing a small amount of blood onto his sleeve, and reached out his un-coughed-on hand to help the boy up.

“I’ll think about it. I wouldn’t do that if you’d react a little faster. The day you can dodge fast enough is the day you’ll be ready for hero work.”

“Ah, All Might! This must be the incoming freshie you warned me about,” a gentle voice called out.

“It is indeed, young Mirio!”

“Would you introduce me?” the teenager called out, giving Izuku an appraising look. Something about the cool confidence the boy exerted was a little intimidating, but he didn’t look unfriendly. Rather the opposite, really: his posture was welcoming, and he had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

“Izuku, this is Mirio Togata! He’s considered the best in his class. Class 2-A… Mirio, this is Izuku Midoriya. You already know all about him, though.”

The student waved and used his fingers to push his cheeks into a wide smile. It might have been Izuku’s imagination, but Toshinori’s face seemed to falter for an instant.

“It’s nice to meet you!” Izuku said, as his senior walked toward him. The shadow of mischief passed over his face, but a kindly smile reassured the boy as he reached out to shake his hand.

“And you as well!” the boy said, shaking his hand up and down as it phased entirely through the younger boy’s body.

Izuku shook his hand for a moment longer before he realized the complete absence of contact between him and the older boy. He looked dumbly at the older boy before he processed what had happened, and the faintest hint of realization that he’d been pranked crossed his mind.

Mirio smiled, his eyes now blazing with suppressed laughter, and Toshinori couldn’t help but let out a snicker.

“I considered warning you, but I didn’t want to ruin his fun,” his mentor said. “I once saw him fall through the ground! And, uh, his clothes.”

“All Might! You’re embarrassing me! I blame Tamaki for that one.”

“Ah, yes. Do you know what Nejire said about it?”

Mirio’s face turned beet red and he turned around. “Alright! Let’s get going!”

Izuku had no idea who they were talking about, but based on Mirio’s blushing, he wasn’t going to get an explanation.

He led them to a small cart used for getting around the campus grounds, and gestured for Toshinori to take the wheel. While Mirio was legally allowed to drive a car, it was against school rules for a student to chauffeur visitors.

Izuku nodded as they took a path past the visitor center and toward a collection of large buildings in the distance. He recognized them as the training grounds used for the Entrance Exam, which was televised every year. Unlike the Sports Festival that took place later during the year, the Entrance Exam was broadcast in a much more dull way, on a public broadcasting channel.

Or at least, he recognized the first city he saw. As they came further around the corner, he could see the other test sites, and they seemed to be undergoing some pretty serious rebuilding.

“Hey, Mirio? Do you know what’s up with the sites?”

“That’d be the upgrades they’re doing for next year! I can’t tell you what exactly they’re doing if you plan on applying, and also because I’m not supposed to know, but… Ah, well. You’ll see when you get here!”

Izuku smiled. When he got here. In just seven more months he’d be in one of those cities, fighting for his chance to be a hero. It occurred to him that Mirio might even mean when he was a student, because he had that confidence in Izuku, even after just meeting him. Toshinori definitely seemed to share that confidence every time he talked about the exam.

The school building itself loomed over them a few minutes later on the other side of campus. Fourteen stories of sheer glass topped with a gleaming slab of metal reflected the sun down onto him, and Izuku’s brow beaded with sweat. Maybe three months ago the mere sight of the building would be enough to cause this, but now…

Standing here before the four towers, he didn’t feel as intimidated as he expected. It probably had something to do with the man standing in front of him, no, walking away from him…

Izuku’s face went scarlet and he caught up to them.

“Careful, buddy! Don’t get lost,” Mirio chuckled, giving him a playful jab at the shoulder.

“Y-yeah, sorry, I was just-”

“Taking it in, I guess? Is it everything you expected?”

“Would you be offended if I said no?

Mirio’s smile froze for a moment, before he looked at Izuku’s worried expression and laughed.

“No, of course not! I’ve never heard that one before. You know, the first time I showed up to U.A., I cried a little.”

His words washed away a bit of Izuku’s nerves with their familiarity.

They entered the building and began a tour of the classrooms, though none were in session at the moment. The size of the doors and fanciness of the, well, everything, gave him pause until he realized exactly where he was.

He had yet to see any of the teachers, but he wasn’t surprised. Without classes in session, there was no reason for them to be here - they were professional heroes. They had other jobs to do.

As they entered the cafeteria, the intercom crackled to life, and a high-pitched voice began to echo throughout the large room.

“You three, would you do me a favor and visit my office?”

Toshinori winced, but responded. “Yup, we’ll wrap things up and get over there. I guess you’d like to meet him?”

“I sure do! I have tea here, and biscuits, so don’t worry about getting anything from the cafeteria.”

“Was that…?”

“Yes, that was Principal Nezu. Don’t tell him I told you this, but I think his use of the intercom system as his personal stalking device is a little bit strange.”

“Oh, he won’t tell me anything! I hear everything going on in my school,” the voice spoke again, with a distinctly cheery tone.

The trio shuddered in unison. Despite the principal’s jovial tone, they all felt vaguely threatened.

Not, of course, that they thought Nezu was evil. Just a little unhinged.

By the time they reached the administrative office, Izuku was beginning to feel nervous again. Nezu’s constant and unnecessary directions weren’t doing wonders for his anxiety. Mirio contemplated taking a restroom break just to mess with the principal, but decided against it in favor of common sense.

Before Toshinori could knock twice, the door swung open - to reveal an empty office. Izuku turned, and despite his advanced knowledge of Nezu, he was still surprised to see the dog-mouse-bear wearing a suit.

He was even more surprised when Nezu started shaking his hand. “Good to meet you, Izuku! You seem like a bright kid.”

“G-good to meet you, Principal.”

“Call me Nezu! Yagi, I believe we have something to talk about.”

“Yes, Principal! I’m, uh, sorry. I’m still getting used to the whole-”

“No need for all the apologies, just be more careful. You only have so much time in that form of yours. When you start teaching here, you’re going to have to budget that a lot better. Running out before you even make it to a meeting here isn’t a good look.”

Mirio exchanged a look with Izuku, a hint of a smirk on his face. Seeing the number one hero get a bit of a dressing down was amusing. It didn’t slip either of their minds that, while Nezu referred to him by his given name, All Might referred to him as Principal.

Nezu was intimidating.

“Of course, with you being able to work as a hero less often, we’ll be needing more people in this line of work ASAP. That brings me back to you, Izuku - let’s sit down.”

Izuku stepped out of the principal’s way as he entered the office, following when he was beckoned forth. He took a seat as Nezu disappeared from sight behind his desk, jumping up to his chair a moment later.

“Now, I’m sure a boy as promising as you would understand the implication of your mentor's diminished ability to work. He'll really be restricted to keeping supervillains and criminal syndicates underground. Small-time criminals may feel emboldened when it becomes apparent that he'll be spending much of his time in classes. Now, we're keeping his specific schedule a secret, but we've got a few other programs in the works to keep them at bay.”

Izuku took a moment to take it in. “You mentioned needing more heroes. Would it be a safe bet to say you’re considering speeding up the process of getting provisional hero licenses?”

Nezu made a face analogous to pursing his lips. “Quick, aren’t you? You’ve almost hit it on the mark. See, UA has a certain status to it. We, and our students, are allowed privileges that most schools can’t boast. Being a student here isn’t quite as good as a license, but with our legal team standing behind students… I’ve been thinking about giving temporary permission for students to act to prevent small crimes from happening. Of course, the danger levels would have to be relatively low. First years would be restricted to, say, stopping a purse-snatcher.”

“You’re saying you’d let your students be vigilantes?”

“Not the word I’d use, but it’s close enough. It’s still an idea in its very early stage of development, but it would work under the same premise as a hero giving emergency authorization for citizens to assist in a disaster. Hawks, for example, asked for help from a quirk user who could make things resistant to fire, in order to help remove people from a burning building.”

“But giving permission to all of your students, under less conditional circumstances… I’m not here to give my opinion on this, though,” Izuku said, wringing his hands. “It would give the students valuable experience in risk assessment, I suppose.”

“I appreciate input from any source, young man. Actually, that gives me a bit of an idea. Because of Yagi’s position with the school, and your possible future attendance, he’s had to file documents stating that he is your mentor and stands guarantor for your behaviour. I won’t bore you with the details, but you could be sort of a pilot trial for this program. Yagi, what do you think? While Izuku processed the implications of what Nezu had said, Toshinori smiled. “Oh, I think that would be excellent! They say most heroes have stories of them from their student days. He’s got all the skills he’d need to stop a robbery, I think. His reflexes are certainly combat-ready.”

“Well, I’ll call that settled, then.”

“Wait, huh? But I’m not even attending the school!”

“Not yet, but with the number one hero as your mentor, there’s no doubt that you’ll get in. Besides, Mirio seems like he’s made up his mind about you, and he’s one of our brightest.”

Mirio grinned at them. “You might see me around, Izuku. I make a habit of checking in on people I like. Maybe we’ll get caught up in the same scene one of these days - my provisional hero license might get you out of trouble.”

“I look forward to it! You’ve got a provisional hero license?” Izuku said, his eyes shining a little.

“I do! I’ll tell you about it while I show you the school. I think these two might have a few things to talk about that they don’t want us to know about just yet.”

“I’ll catch up with you boys later, Mirio is right. As always,” Toshinori said, giving them a thumbs up. “Sometimes I could swear your quirk is mind reading.”

“My Permeation lets me reach right into your brain and pull out your secrets!”

Many hours later, Izuku found himself jogging home from the beach once more. Jogging had become a bit of a habit since he’d started his training. It got him home faster, which his mother was always happy about, and it let him indulge in a few daydreams. With the sun setting behind him, and the scenic route he took through the park, he could almost pretend he was the protagonist of some sort of movie.

Tonight, though, he had an ulterior motive for taking a scenic route. This path led him through the park and around several shady alleys, places where crime thrived. After getting permission from Toshinori, and at Nezu’s request, he’d begun to look forward to being allowed to be a hero. It was a little silly, he knew, but his mentor’s words from earlier echoed in his head.

“Most heroes have stories about them from their school days,” he’d said. The heroes around here were more than capable of stopping petty crime, but it wouldn’t hurt to help where he could.

Now, he wasn’t sure how to break the news to his mother. As a kid, he’d been warned about getting himself into trouble over vigilantism, especially when his quirk manifested. He had never been the sort to break the law anyway. But after the conversation with Nezu…

Getting into trouble was only bad if you couldn’t get yourself out of it, right?

He slowed his pace to take in the scenery. Around him, trees fluttered as the breeze flew out to the ocean. The path he was taking edged closer to the street, and he found himself gazing into the alleys as he passed them.

Nothing stood out to him. A flock of pigeons flapping their wings overhead was the loudest thing he could hear, and the closest thing to a crime he could see was two cats facing off next to a garbage can. Only one car was on the road next to him, and it didn’t seem terribly threatening.

It sped up as it passed an alley, and Izuku kept an eye on it.

As it turned out of sight, another vehicle came into view. The packing truck trundled its way merrily toward him, but screeched to a halt and swerved to the side of the road next to an alley. Izuku’s heart, already elevated from the light jogging, jumped into his throat. Surely they were just checking a tire or something?

Three men jumped from the truck and ran toward an alley they had passed a few feet back. Nothing, of course, could be good about that, not with the way they were running.

So Izuku ran too, doubling his efforts as he heard a girl scream. He could hear fighting, and something hit a wall.

“You’ll pay for that, bitch!” a man yelled, before a loud thwack was heard.

Izuku rounded the corner of the truck, adrenaline making his blood pound too loud to hear anything else at this point. As he peered around the edge of the alley-

His skull bounced off the pavement with a sickening thud, and Izuku knew no more. Another man hit the ground seconds later, the silence that followed broken only by their attacker’s panicked breathing. An arm wrapped around his shoulder and dragged him further into the alley and out of sight.

“Oh god,” a girl said, clutching a steel staff close to her chest. “Shit, shit shit. Uh, fuck.”

Her familiarity with the swear words was shaky at best, and her hands shook as she reached for her phone. She opened it and dialed her first contact.

“Uh, hi, daddy?” I need… um, I… yeah, yeah. I’m okay. But I don’t know if they’re okay. I might have killed one of them.”

A mixture of relief and anguish crawled into her throat as she spoke to the person on the end of the line, and she ended the call shortly after they promised her an ambulance. She rested her back against the wall and slid to the ground, pulling her knees close as she focused on her breathing.

Izuku groaned as he woke up. He felt like he’d been to a baseball game, where he was the baseball. The fluorescent lights overhead did nothing for his headache, and he tried to curl into a ball as his stomach burbled unhappily. Behind him, chains clanked against each other, and he realized his hands were restrained.

Past the bars of the cell, a man wearing a security uniform put his hand on his gun’s holster. “Keep it quiet in there, thug. Your turn is coming up.”

Izuku’s only response was a whimper as he pulled his knees to his chest. He cradled his head in his lap, trying to block out the light, but for the most part it just hurt his bruised neck.

Several minutes went by before he heard any noise outside. A man was fighting back rabidly against the people restraining him, screaming obscenities to anyone who could hear, before Izuku heard a slapping sound and the man’s voice became muffled. The sounds of his resistance got closer.

As they passed his cell, Izuku could see two guards carrying a man with a piece of duct tape over his mouth. It appeared they were struggling with him, and when he saw Izuku, his eyes went wide. He elbowed one of the guards in the stomach, forcing them to drop him, and he ripped the tape off of his mouth, grabbing the bars to Izuku’s cell.

“You bastard! This is your fault! You fucking distracted me!”

The man who had been guarding Izuku’s cell kicked the thug in the stomach, before unholstering his gun and shooting the man with a dart.

Izuku’s heart raced. For a moment, he thought he had been about to see an execution. Either way, they dragged the soon-unconscious man away, before they unlocked his cell and came in.

“No funny business. Don’t wanna end up like that guy.”

They reached behind him, unlocking his manacles, and pulled him to his feet. Spots appeared in his vision, and he knelt again for a moment to catch his breath. The two guards grabbed him by his shoulders and pulled him to his feet.

They half-carried, half-dragged him toward the end of a brightly lit hall. Most of the cells he passed were empty, but he thought one of the prisoners looked like one of the people he had been chasing before he’d been knocked out.

“You guys have the wrong idea, I promise,” Izuku said, groaning as he tried not to throw up.

“We’ll let our boss decide that. That’s none of our business.”

The tiles under his feet swayed with every step they took, and Izuku’s vision went dark for a moment. He heard them open the door, and quickly found himself placed in a chair. He took a sharp breath and leaned forward, trying to regain his grasp on his body, no longer supported by the guards.

“I hope you’ve got better things to say for yourself than the three goons we talked to before you. I’m not in a great mood, and you’re gonna give me the answers I want.”

“I-I’m sorry sir, I don’t know what I’m doing here,” Izuku said, shutting his eyes tight against the lights.

“My daughter did a good job knocking you out, then.”

“Your daughter?”

“Don’t play coy with me, jackass. The girl you were attacking.”

“No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. The last thing I remember is chasing-”

Across the desk, a phone vibrated. As Izuku opened his eyes, he realized it was his phone.

He took in the man’s face as it paled. It looked familiar - he’d seen it before. Maybe on the news? The suit and tie brought the memory back, and he raced to remember the man’s name. A billionaire, one of the richest men in Japan.

“Is this a joke?” the man said, holding up Izuku’s phone so he could examine the caller ID.

Yagi Toshinori.

“Oh, shit. Oh, no, no, no.”

Izuku’s vision blacked out again, and he leaned over to empty his stomach.

The man picked up.

“Who is this?”

The man’s face paled further, before he ended the call.

“Why the hell do you have All Might in your contacts list? Are you his secret son?”

“Yaoyorozu. You’re the head of the Yaoyorozu Corporation.”

“Answer the question. Who is he to you?” the businessman demanded, before leaning back and pressing his fingers to his temples. “Oh, dear. Someone bring him a towel. Clean him up a little.”

“This is just a misunderstanding, I promise. I was never trying to hurt her. I heard someone scream, and ran to help.”

“We didn’t find a hero license in your wallet, kid.”

“Well, that’s because I don’t have one. I can’t give all the details.”

Mr. Yaoyorozu scoffed. “You don’t have that privilege right now. You’re sitting in my private jail, on my property, with my men surrounding you. The only thing saving you from spending the next several years here is that call from All Might, which you still haven’t explained.”

“It’s hard to explain, really. He’s sort of been mentoring me for a few months. I’ll be attending UA.”

“Certainly a good story. Tell you what, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. You don’t strike me as anything like the other three attackers,” Mr. Yaoyorozu said, gesturing to a man carrying a wet rag and a few pills. “Clean yourself up and take those. They’ll help with the pain, and will probably stabilize that concussion of yours.”

Izuku set the pills on the desk in front of him and took the rag as offered, wiping his face and mouth. After hesitantly taking the pills, his phone slid across the table. “Call him back. Tell him you’re fine.”

Izuku took the phone and did as he was ordered, gently holding the phone to his ear.

“Hi, Toshinori?”

“Oh, dear. You scared us there for a moment. What’s happened? Are you safe?”

“I’m sorry. I, uh, got into a bit of trouble. Not with the police. I… I think I’m safe.”

“Who was that on the phone earlier?”

Izuku looked to the man across the table, who nodded. “The head of the Yaoyorozu Corporation. I got mixed up in something. I think I saw his daughter get attacked, but when I ran to help, someone knocked me out. I only woke up a few minutes ago.”

“Where are you right now?”

At that, Mr. Yaoyorozu shook his head and put his hand forward. Izuku didn’t really want to give up his phone, but he didn’t see a different choice.

“I’m sorry, but he wants to speak to you again.”

“Izuku, wait-”

Izuku didn’t wait. Not in this situation. Not with his head still spinning.

“Yes, this is Yaoyorozu. I’m sorry for the misunderstanding. Due to privacy concerns, we can’t tell you where he is, but we’ll take good care of him. I’ll call you back,” he said, hanging up. “You two. Take him upstairs. Situate him in one of the rooms in the guest house. Make sure the doctor takes a look at him.”

“Wait, my mom, I need to call my mom-”

“We’ll bring your phone up in a moment. Actually, I’ll just call your mentor on my own phone. I’ve got his number somewhere. What was your name?”

“Midoriya. Izuku Midoriya.”

“Alright, my apologies, Midoriya. It would appear we’ve made a terrible mistake,” the man said, standing up and handing Izuku his phone once more. “I’m sure you can understand our concern, though. My daughter is precious to me. When I heard that she had been attacked, I was furious. Perhaps you’ll meet her more properly should you get into that school.”

Izuku’s brain hurt from all the questions he wanted to ask. It hurt from a lot more than that, of course, but the questions certainly didn’t help. At any rate, he didn’t have time to think, not as he was herded out of the room and up a flight of stairs. The door ahead of him opened automatically, a thick, heavy thing which hissed as it slid outward.

The interior of the building surprised Izuku. Firelight flickered across the room and soothed his eyes, his quirk growing uncomfortably close to the surface. Above his head, a chandelier twinkled merrily. Expensive carpets and sofas furnished the room, and he looked around. He could hear a distressed voice, but wasn’t quite sure what it was. As they moved him toward the front door, he saw two figures obscured by the twisted glass window in the door. Closer to the voice, he could make out a few words.

“... dead, I killed… alright?”

The words were alarming, but the tone they were said in was anything but. That didn’t sound like the murderer’s testimonials he’d heard on TV before.

As they opened the door, a guard outside swiftly moved between them and the other figure, who dodged out of the way to get a look at the people exiting the building.

A girl, around his age, peered around the side of the guard. Seeing him, her eyes went wide, and she took a few steps back.

“That answers my question, I suppose. He’s alright?”

“He has a nasty concussion, Miss, but he’ll be fine. He seems like he’s got some sort of healing quirk,” the guard to Izuku’s left said.

“Oh, thank the lord. I really thought I killed him. The sound his head made when it hit the ground scared me.”

“Thanks for that, by the way. I’m sorry if I startled you,” Izuku said, his tone more sour than expected.

The girl’s face turned pink. “What are you bringing him out here for, anyway?”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to ask your father that. I don’t know how much he wants you to know.”

“Oh, you’re his daughter? Future classmates, then.”


“Quiet down, kid.”

“No, he’s got my interest. My dad wouldn’t keep secrets from me. Let him speak.”

“Fine, but it’s our jobs on the line. You better speak up for us if your dad gets our asses for it.”

“What’s he doing out here? If he was dangerous, you would have kept him down there.”

“Fair enough. We’ve got orders to bring him to the guest house. Our shift is almost up, so if you’ll follow us there, we can pass you two off to one of the other guards in there. What was his name? Gerard?”

“Yes, Jerry works in the guest house. We can talk while we walk. I want to hear from him, though. What’s your name?”

“Izuku Midoriya,” he said, his head spinning.

“Momo Yaoyorozu,” she said, extending her hand. She made a thoughtful expression and laughed. “This is a little strange.”

“Not every day I get knocked out, kidnapped, interrogated, and then introduced to a future classmate. Well, hopefully a future classmate,” he said as they began to walk toward the guest house. Sort of, anyways. Izuku mostly limped as the two guards supported him. “What did you hit me with?”

“Oh, that would’ve been a metal stave. It’s sort of my go-to weapon. A lot of my training was centered around bojutsu when I was younger.”

The guards exchanged a look. Seeing their boss’ daughter being so friendly with a guy they had dragged out of a cell less than half an hour ago, who she had apparently knocked out and almost killed in the first place, was odd. Momo was more demanding than her father, but also about twice as scary half the time. She didn’t even mean to be.

“You can definitely hit pretty hard with it.”

“Yeah, I’m proud of it. I guess I need to work on my control, though. I really thought I killed you,” she said, laughing. Izuku finally realized how rigidly she was walking. She must’ve been super nervous.

“Well, I’m still alive. No big deal, right?”

Momo turned to look at him. “Just like that? No big deal?”

“I mean, if it was kind of an accident, there’s no harm done,” Izuku said. He missed a step and groaned as they pulled him up. “No permanent harm, anyway. I heal pretty fast. I think I must’ve bruised myself up pretty bad when I fell.”

“We’ll get the doctor to fix you up as soon as we can, then. Um… I’m really sorry.”

They continued walking in awkward silence for a minute or two before the guest house came into view. The Yaoyorozu estate was enormous, as expected of a billionaire’s residence. Everything was beautifully built, with ancient hardwood trees dotting the landscape. A large fountain filled the middle of the courtyard.

“You never did tell me how we might be future classmates.”

“Oh, well…” Izuku thought for a moment. How much should he tell her? She was a stranger to him, but if what they’d said earlier was correct, her father would be telling her everything anyway. He made his decision. “Your father said you’d be going to UA. Tosh- All Might has been mentoring me for a few months, he wants me to take the entrance exam.”

“You’re mentoring under All Might?” Momo asked, her eyes twinkling. “That’s actually pretty amazing! How’d you meet him?”

“Your dad thought I was All Might’s son when he called me, which probably scared me more than it scared him. It’s sort of supposed to be a secret. If word got out that All Might had a secret lovechild somewhere, my life would be over,” Izuku shuddered. “Oh, how did I meet him? I guess I ought to answer your question first. He was chasing down a villain who had gotten caught stealing, and my friend and I ended up in the villain’s path… I thought we were both dead for a second, but then he showed up and took care of it. He brought us to the police station to get checked up and to hand over the villain and we talked and I guess he took a liking to me.”

They continued chatting as they reached the guest house, a three-story structure that looked like it cost more than Izuku’s entire apartment block. Even if he knew the theory about how rich the Yaoyorozus were, seeing it in person made his head spin. That might have been the concussion, though.

As they entered the building, the guards traded him off to someone new, presumably the Jerry they had mentioned earlier. This guard was a lot more relaxed, helping Izuku over to a couch to sit down. He kept an eye on them, of course, but was nowhere near as on-edge as the guards who had to handle the prisoners.

“Our physician ought to be here soon, he lives on the estate and is always available. He’s usually faster than this, but-”

As if on-cue, the door opened again, and a man walked in. He looked only vaguely recognizable as a doctor, without the tools and gadgets Izuku was used to seeing. No stethoscope hung around his neck, only a white suit and surgical mask. A briefcase by his side jingled merrily with bells.

“Good evening! Or morning, I think it would be by now. I see I’m a little late. Would you like me to take a look now or is there anything you’d like to ask first?”

Izuku shook his head, then grimaced. “I don’t suppose you’ve got any painkillers?”

“Well, after I take a look, I can give you some. I have to figure out what’s wrong with you to choose the right one, and the right dose,” the doctor said, gesturing for Izuku to stand up. “Now, this will be a little different than your usual check-up. My quirk allows me to tap into a person’s body, but it requires the target’s blood to use. Is that alright?”

Izuku couldn’t think of a reason not to, so he gingerly nodded.

The man reached into his briefcase and removed a small needle. “This ought to only feel like a small pinch, I’ve learned how to do this without anaesthetic. Anaesthetics can sometimes work against my quirk, so I try to do this without it.”

As the needle slid under his skin, he looked away. Momo was closer than he remembered, watching intently. It almost looked like she was taking notes. Izuku gave her a weak smile.

“I think you’re having more fun with this than me,” he said.

Her face turned red and she looked away. “Sorry! I’ve always paid attention to these sort of things. It might come in handy during hero work one day. I should’ve asked if you minded first.”

“That’s alright! I actually didn’t think of that. Maybe I’ll watch too.”

“No, that’s not necessary. It’s already over, in any case,” the doctor said, holding the syringe up. A single drop of blood fell into his palm, sinking in. Something tickled at the edge of his mind, a presence he wasn’t used to.

The doctor’s eyes rolled back in his head and he went stiff.

“Uh, is that supposed to happen?” Izuku said, his heart rate spiking.

“It’s completely normal. When he taps into someone else’s body, he loses a lot of control over his own. When he first started here he used a wheelchair whenever he’d do this,” the guard explained.

The quirk's sensation was odd, but not unpleasant, Izuku decided. It felt like feathery touches all over him, something like a curtain waving in the breeze against his skin. In a matter of minutes it was over, and the presence returned to his head.

The doctor's eyes fluttered open as it faded. "Well, I have some good news for you! When I first heard about your condition upon arriving, I hadn't counted on your healing factor. From what I observed, you heal especially fast. Your brain was definitely jostled but it seems to be sorting itself out. You've got a very nice quirk there, young man."

Izuku gave an awkward smile. He wasn't going to dispute his quirk with the doctor, but it was strange for . “I’m not sure that’s my quirk, actually. My mom says I just have a strong constitution. Speaking of her… Can I call her yet? She’s probably worried out of her mind. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her bust down the gates and drag Mr. Yaoyorozu out by his ear until he told her where I was.”

By the time Izuku was finished convincing Inko he was alright (or at least alive), the painkillers had kicked in. He wasn’t sure what they were specifically but they definitely worked. Now that the headache was gone, his body cried for rest. The silk bedsheets of the guest room and heavenly mattress felt strange against his back.

On the one hand, they were mindblowingly comfortable. On the other, they weren’t his own. Sleeping away from home always made him a little tense. His mind was racing just thinking of the consequences of tonight.

He’d made acquaintances with a billionaire and his daughter by being kidnapped. His secret mentor had been revealed to a handful of new people, and he’d had his ass handed to him in the middle of his first semi-legal attempt at heroism.

No, Izuku didn’t think he’d sleep very well at all.

It was another month before Izuku engaged in any sort of heroism again. His concussion had healed within a week, and he’d felt better than ever - having a new friend definitely helped. When Toshinori and Inko had come to pick him up, Momo had given him her number, and had kept up a correspondence. She told him she’d let him know when she’d be in town again, so he could maybe avoid getting knocked out again.

Izuku found himself on a walk once more, this time on the quicker way home. The sun had already set over the ocean, but he’d stuck around to haul a bit more trash away. By the time he’d cleared up another few feet of sand, his mom had grown worried sick.

Even after sunset, the road was busy with people seeking dinner or getting off work. It made a good situation for a bit of extra training, in his opinion - Toshinori had mentioned how poor Izuku’s situational awareness was at times. Despite his fast reaction times, he was almost too easy to sneak up on.

As a result, the boy had made a bit of a game out of walking home. He’d pick out a certain face, or smell, or noise, and focus on it above everything else going on. Tonight, he had chosen a passerby on the other side of the road, pausing before they entered a small shop for dinner. Behind the glass storefront, he could see everything. The smell of food filled his nose and his stomach grumbled at the thought of getting food at home, and his mouth watered.

A different smell permeated the air a moment later. Gas? A pit replaced the hunger in his stomach.

A moment later, the storefront shattered, and flames blew the pedestrian away. Izuku yelled and ran toward the situation, seeing people still in the now-blazing store. Without a thought for his own safety, he rushed in and felt like he’d been punched in the chest by Endeavor.

Behind the register, he could see an unconscious, badly burned man. He held his breath as he grabbed the man, carrying him over his shoulder. Under a counter, Izuku could see a mother and her child hiding, unable to reach the door through the flames. His shoulders felt cold as he ran out of the store and put the injured man on the ground, running back in to grab the remaining two. A small crowd had gathered outside, and he winced at flashes of light as they took pictures.

Adrenaline pounded in his veins as he ran back into the store, and he tore off his burned shirt to beat a path through the flames. He could feel his legs beginning to burn, and his thoughts finally caught up with his actions.

He was on fire. His skin was so hot he felt cold, and he remembered the first time he’d created fire with his own quirk. Someone had tripped him, and the shock of it caused an accidental quirk flareup, with his quirk roaring out and burning his hand terribly. By some miracle, there had been no permanent damage.

He passed through a cloud of smoke and saw the mother and daughter sitting there, almost unconscious from smoke inhalation.

I gotta get them out of here.

It hurt to move, to breathe, and he still had to carry two people.

He picked them both up and took a deep breath of burning air, before sprinting through the fire and smoke, tripping over an overturned stool as he neared the entrance. He threw the mother and daughter out of the store, where they tumbled to safety, burned and bruised but alive.

Izuku couldn’t tell if there was something wrong with his eyes or if the air was just shimmering. He pushed himself up on blackened arms, stumbling out of the flames coated in ash.

The cold air felt nice against what was left of his skin, and seeing everyone alive relieved him. Someone snapped a picture of him, and as the adrenaline, pain, and the associated endorphin response kicked in, he smiled.

And for the second time in two months, he hit the ground.

Izuku woke up in a much more comfortable place than last time, though he felt like he was in a considerable amount more pain than he had been last time.

“Mr. Midoriya?”

Izuku tried to grunt in response, but couldn’t make any noise through the tube down his throat.

“No, no, don’t try talking yet, kid. You were roughed up pretty bad at that store.”

Finally, he opened his eyes, and strained against the bright lights in what appeared to be a hospital room. A nurse approached him from the door with a clipboard and pen, and stood next to him, checking machines attached to him.

“You’re a rather remarkable young man. I tell you what, you’re made of hardy stuff to have survived that.”

Izuku smiled, but couldn’t feel it. Actually, he couldn’t feel much beyond his back. His chest, arms, and legs all the way into his extremities felt almost entirely numb. Part of him wondered how bad the damage was, the rest of him wasn’t sure he wanted to see it.

“I imagine you’re wondering how bad it is. Well, the fact that you’re awake right now is a very good sign. When the paramedics arrived for you, you were still on fire, but when we couldn’t put you out we figured out that it was your quirk causing that.”

Izuku’s eyebrows (which had miraculously survived the fire, along with his hair) furrowed. At his expression, the nurse pulled out a small smartphone, turning it to the front-facing camera and pointing it to him.

His face was pink. Like, shockingly bright pink. His hair had somehow made it through the fire intact, but the green against pink did not make him look attractive.

“It looked like you were half burnt to a crisp at first, but your quirk seems to heal you pretty well. When we looked it up, we didn’t get anything about the healing part, but that happens all the time. You should probably update the quirk registry with that information!”

I guess Toshinori was right. My quirk has something more to it than just fire.

Before too long, he was cleared to remove the breathing tube, and promptly drank a half a gallon of an offered electrolyte drink. He was happy to be mostly intact, but still had no feeling in half of his body. The doctors ran tests for about an hour to determine if anything else had changed, but his body seemed to work properly.

“Your quirk seems to have saved your life, son. Take this as a learning experience, though, and don’t go running into burning buildings again! We’ll still have to file a report about juvenile vigilantism, you know,” the doctor said, writing up a note for him. “Here, take this. From what we’ve seen, your quirk draws on the nutrients and water available in and on your body to rebuild itself. It’s not every day you learn something like this about yourself.”

“Thank you sir! I’m sorry for the trouble.”

He was cleared to leave the hospital, but that unfortunately meant a trip in a police car to the station, where he met an extremely frantic mother.

“Izuku!” his mother yelled, rushing up to hold him in a tight hug.

“Ow! Mom!” Izuku yelped as his clothes brushed against his skin roughly.

“Young man, you scared me half to death! What were you thinking?” his mother cried, her face a mixture of stress, parental anger, and relief.

They entered the station, and Toshinori paused in his conversation. He’d been talking to someone with short black hair, wearing a white shirt and a red tie.

“Izuku! Goodness gracious, kid. I’m glad to see you looking well. When I heard you’d been hurt, I was terrified!”

“I’m sorry, I kind of got in over my head. I underestimated how badly I’d get burned.”

“That’s part of why I like you, I guess,” Toshinori said, earning him a dirty look from Inko. “You didn’t think, did you?”

“No. I guess that ended me up here. Toshinori, about the vigilantism stuff…” “Don’t worry about it! My name is Detective Tsukauchi, I’m an old friend of All Might’s. I’ll be sorting things out with the police here, he’s told me all about UA’s intentions.”

“Izuku? What are they talking about?”

A sheepish smile crossed his face. “Well, remember when I ran into some trouble with the Yaoyorozu family?”

His mother frowned. She didn’t like where this was going, not if it would cause her boy this much trouble.

“If I may?” Toshinori said, “UA and All Might are running a sort of program. Since Izuku met All Might, I’m sure you’re aware they’ve been meeting to help Izuku train for the entrance exam.”

Inko nodded, and he continued. “When Izuku visited the campus last month, Principal Nezu asked for a sort of favor. They’re working on ways to give their students more practical experience before they even get their hero licenses. Izuku is running as a pilot for this program, with All Might acting as his hero mentor. That’s the reason Izuku will be off the hook for vigilantism tonight.”

“I don’t like it. Did nobody think to run this by me?” Inko responded, her lip trembling. “Izuku, baby, I know you want to be a hero, but this is the second time in a month you’ve gotten yourself hurt. Can’t you wait until you’re older, or after you graduate?”

Izuku looked away. If he wasn’t careful, he’d start crying too.

“I’m sorry, mom. I should have told you before anyone else. But this is something I think I have to do. Every hero has stories about them from before their high school days.”

That morning, Izuku woke to a flood of texts from Katsuki and one from Momo.

“Izuku? Are you okay? I saw what happened on the news. -6:17 AM” Momo’s message read, with a link attached to a video.

He took a moment to process it, before scrambling to find his clothes. Tugging his shirt over his head stung as his new skin stretched, though he looked significantly less pink than he did yesterday.

Typing back a response was an ordeal. His fingers didn’t hit the right keys, and he almost dropped his phone twice as he entered the living room. Having no feeling in his fingertips was beginning to suck.

“I’m mostly fine. I learned something about my quirk -7:23AM”

As he finished the text, he clicked on the link she had sent and almost had a heart attack. Someone had written an article about him! His act had earned him a spot in the newspaper!

Chapter Text

As his wounds healed, Izuku began to question his quirk. Toshinori was right, and his little stunt had proved it. His healing factor was off the charts, especially for burn-related injuries. It took a week for his face to stop being so pink, and another week for feeling to return to his fingers. 

The sun’s rising rays felt like a perfect pair to the breeze coming off the ocean, bringing warmth to his face as he wiggled his fingers. Today, he was finally going to do it. 

Convincing his mom that this was necessary for understanding his quirk was easier said than done. Despite the newfound reassurance that he could heal from whatever damage he dealt himself, his mom hated the thought of her baby boy being in pain. 

Izuku focuses on his pointer finger, feeling the heat beneath the surface as his quirk comes to life. The last time he’d intentionally burned himself was almost a decade ago by now. Heat builds up uncomfortably, quickly becoming painful as the nerves sear. He steels his resolve and pushes harder, surprising himself as his skin ignites. Ash drifts off the tip of his finger, and it burns through his entire digit before he can react, his bone being exposed for just a moment before it too joins the plume of ash shooting into the air.

His scream echoes off the seawall as he chokes back a sob, pain clouding his mind for a moment before his missing appendage stops hurting. He feels his finger brush against the roof of the pavilion, and-


The cloud of ash swirling above him responds to him as he flexes what feels like his finger. The cloud bends, and when he moves his hand, the cloud moves with it. A gentle breeze pushes against the cloud, and he feels a tugging sensation. With that, he guides the ashes in a circle around the pavilion, panicking as he realizes he’s still very much missing a finger.

On instinct, he reaches up. The stump of his finger makes contact with the cloud. A red ring of fire ignites around his knuckle and he yanks his hand away, screaming as the ashes follow in a tight vortex around it. He watches in horrified fascination as they take the shape of his finger, glowing red as they fuse together.

The process hurts less than he thinks it ought to. It hurts like hell, of course, but when he flexes his slowly-cooling finger, it responds like he expects it to. The glow fades from the ashes as they stitch themselves into skin and bone.

His eyes roll back in his head and he faints.

“My, my! You’ve done quite the work, young man,” Toshinori said, smiling at Izuku as he takes in the scene. Izuku pants heavily on the sand. “You even started work on the seafloor?”

“Yup! I thought,” Izuku takes a deep breath, “it would be good exercise to haul what I can get up. I found an old trawling net in one of the cars further down the beach,” Izuku said, before cutting off. “Wait, where am I?”

“Deep breaths, kid. Don’t monologue when you’re out of breath like that.”

“Right, right! As I was saying, I used the net to get up most of the stuff around here. I feel a lot better swimming out there without the risk of bumping into something gross!” 

Toshinori frowns. “Great work, but don’t burn yourself out. If I see you overworking yourself I won’t hesitate to quit our training!”

Izuku sits up and pulls his sandy shirt off, beating it in the air for a moment before giving up. He turns to his mentor. “I promise I won’t push myself too hard! I have to work twice as hard as everyone else, though, so I can catch up. There’s only three more months.”

“You’ve got spirit! You’re more than on track to meet that goal,” Toshi said, puffing out his chest and taking on his All Might persona. “You’re getting this old man fired up!” 

Izuku grins.

“Izuku? Are you alright?”
“Huh? Oh, sorry Momo!” Izuku puts his hand on the back of his neck as his face lights up. “I was just thinking about tomorrow.”

She gives him an appraising look from over her lunch. They’re eating at the picnic tables on the beach, enjoying the clean smell of the ocean. The stresses of the city feel miles away, even if they’re just a few meters away from the seawall. Cars rush past and seagulls flap overhead. 

“I think you’ve got it. I still can’t believe you handled this whole beach yourself, but if you can clean this much up in just 10 months... no entrance exam is gonna stop you for long.”

Izuku smiles and takes a bite of his chicken. 

“I wish I could tell her it’s not the exam worrying me. It feels wrong, lying to her,” he thinks as he chewed. Try as he might, he couldn’t feel any of Toshinori’s quirk activating. “ Sing with your heart and clench your cheeks!” His mentor had said. Regardless of how clenched he was, he didn’t feel any stronger. Just a bit sore. Both in the rear from the constant tension, and in his heart. Had he really worked this hard for nothing? 

No, it wasn’t for nothing. Even if it took longer for All Might’s quirk to come in, even if it never worked for him, he was better off now than he was ten months ago. He’d gotten in shape and trained his will. He feels a lot more confident. Hell, he’d even made a new friend. A new friend who was raising an eyebrow at him as he…

Oh, right. He was still on the beach. 

“Are you alright?” she repeats. 

“I’m fine!” he yelps. “I just can’t help but think too much. It’s a bad habit, I guess.”
“There’s nothing wrong with thoughtfulness,” she says, chewing a bite of an oversized sandwich. “Just don’t let it paralyze you.”

“How do I stop? I feel like it’s all I’ve ever been good at.”

Momo’s expression brightens. “I have an idea!” she laughs. “We can spar! I won’t give you a chance to think.”

Izuku’s heart flutters in his chest. “Sparring? With you?”

“Oh, don’t worry about me. I’m not made of glass.”

“But I am! You’d flatten me. Is it really a good idea to do any of this the day before the exam?”

“Oh, I’ll be gentle. I promise I won’t knock you out again. It’s a good opportunity for me to practice not killing you.”

Izuku sighs as he stands in a hot shower. Water runs down his back as he stretches his muscles lightly, reaching his arms over his head. His fingers trail tenderly over the back of his neck where Momo had hit him a little too hard. Despite tomorrow’s plans, he doesn’t mind the soreness.

It gives him an excuse to think about something other than the culmination of ten months of hard work. Even if she’d knocked him out, he probably would have been fine in the morning. Izuku wonders if the constant tearing of his muscles over the past months might have strengthened the part of his quirk that makes him heal faster. 

On the countertop next to the shower, his phone buzzes twice. He runs his fingers through his hair, checking for suds, and turns the water off. His phone buzzes again and its screen lights up, allowing him to read the messages he received.

“are you gonna be able to sleep?” the first text reads, and he smiles as he read Yaomomo ’s nickname. “i’ll stay up if you want.”

He dries his hands and wraps a towel around himself, typing his response as he walks to his room. “don’t worry about me, i’ll be fine”

But as he lies on his bed, his mind wandering. Momo has a point, he decides. His eyes trace the spots where his All Might collection had been, until he’d moved it to the closet after All Might had made a visit to his house. His mentor was incredibly flattered, but the situation made Izuku want to curl into a ball of embarrassment. 

The new decor was more understated. He’d kept the color scheme of All Might’s golden age, and he’d kept a single figurine. His pajamas were still All Might-themed, but when he’d spent the night at Toshinori’s house (which had been decidedly awesome, since Toshinori had the same taste in movies as he did) he’d been given them as a gift.

His phone buzzes against his chest. “too late. what are friends for?”

“maybe you’re right. what are you gonna do tomorrow”

An indicator pops up letting him know she’s typing, and her response comes swiftly. “i think i’m gonna get some popcorn and watch the test, i hear they’ve revamped the design this year”

Her words echoed what he’d learned from Mirio a few months earlier. Between his training with All Might and his friends, he’d scarcely had a thought to himself. Now he was more certain Momo was right, and that he had little chance of sleeping tonight. In years past, Izuku had watched the entrance exam on television. If this year was going to be different, his information wouldn’t be reliable. Fighting robots doesn’t scare him, but going in blind does.

He sends Momo a response and runs through a breathing exercise. Now isn’t the time to be nervous, he has to have faith in his training. Nervousness is something he gets to leave behind with who he used to be. He takes another deep breath, and another, and exhaustion unexpectedly washes over him.

The smell of breakfast drifts under his door and rays of sunlight beam through his curtains. Izuku rolls over in bed and pulls his blanket closer, mumbling under his breath. He stretches, yawns, and relaxes again. 

His eyes flutter open and he reaches for the glass of water on his desk. It catches the light in a beautiful way, sending a pattern across the metal of his desk. Not, of course, that Izuku notices. His brain is still booting up. 

He looks at his phone uncomprehendingly as he takes a sip of water. Cold races down his throat and he immediately feels more alert, stretching again as he sits up properly. He runs through his morning routine of message-checking that became commonplace after he met Momo and sees a handful of cheerful messages from Katsuki. 

“Good morning Mom!” Izuku says as he walks into the kitchen, where Inko quietly sips from a mug of coffee and prepares breakfast. 

“Good morning, my love!” she says cheerily. “Big day today, isn’t it?” 

“Only if I let it be. I’ve been preparing for this for months. You’re probably more nervous about this than I am!” 

Inko’s cheerfulness belies her nerves. She planned on doing everything she could to be strong until he leaves the house, but her stomach is doing somersaults. “Oh, that’s probably true. There’s some coffee in the pot if you’d like it. You’ll probably need to pee in the middle of the test, though.”

Izuku reads some of the texts Katsuki had sent him aloud to his mother while they eat. “He said, ‘don’t embarrass me’ and ‘if you forget your water bottle I’m gonna punch you in the teeth’.” 

Inko smiles tightly. “I love that boy, and I know he means well, but he’s such an… oddball.”

“I’ll let him know you said that when I see him.”

Late morning sunlight bounces from the crest of UA to the polished granite below, illuminating Izuku’s face from beneath with a golden light. His eyes gleam, and he winces. When he passes the reflection, his complexion pales.

When he’d come here several months ago, the building had seemed small. Now, with prospective students teeming about the school, it felt more fitting of its stature. He does his best to swallow his nerves and keep a smile on his face, but his legs feel like jelly.

As he passes through the doors, he sees Katsuki. To anyone less familiar, his friend seems like the pinnacle of confidence. He’s unbothered, his complexion shines, and a small smirk covers his face. Izuku, however, knows better; Katsuki is pissed off and nervous. Never one to show his nerves, he channels it all into (mostly) righteous anger. 


The word breaks the tension in their shoulders. “It’s almost hard to believe we’re really here.” 

“We were always gonna make it here. Or at least, I was, and you’ve been following me since we were four.” 

Izuku cracks a smile and they make their way to the auditorium, where they wait briefly for the exam orientation to begin. Below them, an oversized podium spreads out in front of the elevated rows of seating. A large screen composes the majority of the back wall, displaying UA’s crest as their host speed-walks to the microphone.

“Welcome to my show! Say hey, everybody!” the host shouts, his voice carrying directly from him despite the microphone. A weak “hey!” echoes from a far corner of the seating, but dies quickly in the silence. “Alright! I’ll run through this as fast as I can. Are you ready?”

If he wasn’t sure Katsuki would murder him, Izuku probably would have been the most enthusiastic fan in the audience by far. The silence that ate the other examinee’s response scares him almost as much as his friend. Despite his anxiety, he races through all of the memories of Present Mic in his head. Their hero-playing-host had stopped enough crimes to earn himself a spot in the top 100, though Izuku had never personally seen him in action.

“This year, we decided to spice things up! Our principal believes that heroes shine best in unexpected circumstances, so we’ve decided to split you listeners into different environments. The basic premise remains the same, but we’ve introduced new varieties of robots to cast a wider net for prospective hero candidates,” the host spoke, gesturing to a series of images on the screen. He flips through images of insect-like robots before landing on a diagram of a sturdy-looking machine. “Each of these opponents will provide an amount of points equivalent to their toughness. This final image depicts the only robot worth zero points. It exists only as an environmental hazard and there is no associated point bonus for defeating it. It goes crazy in tight spots, so I suggest you avoid it!”

With this, a murmur rushes through the audience. If they’d changed the exam, what could the hazards be? What did they have to prepare themselves for? 

Present Mic tolerates the whispers for a moment before wishing them well and sending them on their way. Katsuki shares a solemn look with his best friend as they made their way to the busses, separating as they silently wish each other luck. Everything they’d been working towards for as long as they could remember was reaching a culmination.

Internally, Izuku was on fire. Externally, he remains composed as the bus began to move. In the seat next to him, a blonde boy shifts uncomfortably as his tail presses against the backrest. 

“Does your- um, does your tail get in the way of sitting? I can try to take up less room if you want to let it rest on the seat.”

“That would be nice, thank you. I’ve never found a way to sit comfortably.”

They made awkward small talk for a moment before they arrives at their testing site, where a massive Greek beta symbol crowned an equally massive gate. Trees peek over the edge of the wall, and skyscrapers overgrown with plant life stood proudly behind them. As Izuku exits the bus, he hears music and what sounds like cheering in a stadium. 

They approach the gate, and a drone hovers above, broadcasting Present Mic’s voice to them. 

“The test will begin in two minutes! Stretch yourself out, and remember: in a real battle, there are no countdowns! Be heroic, go above and beyond, plus ultra!” 

Izuku closes his eyes and takes a deep breath, tuning the world out for a moment as he centers himself. 

“Clench your cheeks and shout in your heart!”

He tenses every muscle in his body and smiles, imagining power rushing through his body. 


Izuku proves the voice right by jumping thirty feet into the air, flailing wildly as he falls and lands on his hands and knees. 

“Sorry! I didn’t mean to spook you,” the owner of the voice said, smiling as she offers him a very pink hand. He takes it and she pulls him up. “You looked tense! Come on, stretch with me. I’m Mina. Let’s be quick!”

He crosses his arm over his chest and pulls along his forearm, feeling the stretch in his triceps. They run through a handful more exercises in quick succession, and he took the time to process what had happened. That was definitely his new record for jump height, and he hadn’t even intended to do it.

Did that mean he had activated One for All? 

A loud hiss shakes him from his thoughts, and he clenches his muscles once more, trying to recreate the feeling from earlier. The gate creaks open, and the students ahead of him rush in. Izuku follows close behind, feeling very off-balance as he feels something take hold in his body.

As he pushes off with his first foot, he trips, flying through the air. When he tries to right himself, his hands come up much faster than expected, and he does a flip, landing on his back.

Taking a breath, he pulls himself up gently. 

Focusing on one leg at a time is difficult. I can tell the power is there, but it’s not evenly distributed. It’s throwing me off balance.

Beyond the gates, chaos reigns. A large metallic scorpion melts as Mina splashes it with acid, and another falls as the boy from the bus crushes its’ head with his tail. 

I’m already falling behind! I can do this. All Might is counting on me to do this.

He focuses again on the feeling in his legs, spreading the power evenly this time. He takes a shaky step, relieved as he remains standing and tries to run. His legs fall out from beneath him as they accelerate faster than his body.

Mina turns to stare at him as he yells in frustration, but only for a moment before her face turns upwards toward the shadow descending over her.

A robotic spider swings down, trailing a web behind it as it yanks her into the air with its legs. Izuku stares in horror as she melts its mandibles and eyes off, frying its circuits until it releases her - fifty feet in the air.

Warmth spreads over his body as he hauls himself up, rocketing into the city and bouncing off walls to catch her. He slams into her and slides down the side of a building, landing on the ground before he can even think about what he’s doing. 

“Are you alright!?” 

Mina wheezes before taking a few unsteady breaths. “You knocked the wind out of me, but it’s better than dying! Thanks for the save… what’syourface.”


“Alright, Midoriya!” she laughs as he helps her to her feet. “Whew. That was scary. I hate spiders.”

A shadow crosses over her face again and she blanches, ducking backward as Izuku feels something latch onto his back. A sticky web of metal fibers yanks him into the air by his shirt, and he watches the ground fade rapidly as something pulls him into its nest.

He turns and feels the warmth of his new power again, reaching to the web and ripping it apart with his bare hands. His momentum carries him upwards, and he slams into something hard and chittering.

Izuku scrambles for something to hold on to, grabbing a spider leg and pulling himself tight as it tries to shake him off. He looks around wildly for somewhere to jump to, and throws himself onto a net lodged between a few metal fibers. The spider lunges for him, and he punches it in the face. 

The spider’s face shatters, and it slides off the edge of the web, crashing to the ground below. Izuku takes a second to stare as Mina dodges the falling debris, before she waves and runs off.

I can’t stop moving or I won’t pass! Get up, Izuku!’

Scrambling to his feet, he takes stock of his surroundings. He’s maybe two hundred feet in the air, standing on a slightly-shaky metal web. Cords as thick as telephone poles anchor the web to the buildings on either side of the street, and overhead foliage bathes the street in a beautiful green tint. If he weren’t busy, he might have taken longer to appreciate it. 

A scorpion with a one-point mark emblazoned on its head scrambles toward him, its tail crackling with an electric lance. It stabs at him once, and he dodges to the right, lunging for the base of its tail and punching through the metal. Its tail collapses and the robot snaps at him with its claws, scuttling backwards in an attempt to avoid a face-collapsing punch.

Izuku winces. Punching metal hurts, but the skin on his knuckles doesn’t appear to be broken. He’s sure he’ll be covered in all sorts of bruises by the end of the day, but such is the life of a hero.

He continues on his way, jumping between web fibers as he crushes robot after robot. A spider shoots a ten-pound web at him as he leaps up to meet it, and a small crowd of scorpions snap their claws and poke at him from the walls of the buildings. As he struggles with another insect (he’s grateful now that his mom always asked him to handle whatever bugs got in the house) he feels the web shake and sees something approaching in a reflection.

Glass shatters behind him and he barely avoids being impaled as a sixty-foot metal snake shatters the scorpion that had him pinned. Its momentum keeps it moving, and Izuku’s eyes widen as it turns to focus on him.

“Oh, shit!”

It strikes, and Izuku freezes for just long enough to see its face approach.

This is how I die. 

Fortunately, it slows right before making impact, and Izuku leaps upward with all his might as its mouth prepares to close over him. He rockets through its skull, slamming into a cable and landing on the snake’s back as it shudders. It begins to slide between two webs and crashes to the ground below as Izuku scrambles off.  He wipes his brow with his forearm.

Something builds in his chest, and he laughs. From all sides, he hears echoing noises of combat. Down the street, a beam of blue light blasts through two robots. The cacophony is almost overwhelming, but he still can’t believe he’s made it here, let alone that he’s doing well.

That makes twenty-one points. Is that enough?

He makes his way to the street below, swinging down on a loose iron strand. 

“Four minutes left, dear listeners!” 

Down the street, a stadium stood proudly. From its gates poured a steady stream of one-point scorpions, and a masked figure sprinted away from them. There were too many to fight alone, so Izuku runs to the boy’s aid.

From the direction the masked boy is running in, another wave of scorpions surged forth, throwing themselves from windows and entryways. On either side of the street, a building blocks their escape, and they find themselves pinned between a horde of opponents.

Izuku backpeddles until he runs into something, and almost shouts. He turns and sees the boy who’d been running. The robots march forward on either side of them, jabbing their lances. Quietly, Izuku thinks that being cornered by a mediocre artificial intelligence is a little embarrassing.

“I’m going to throw you over them.”


“How quick are your reflexes?”

“Well, pretty fast, I suppose, but I think we’d have a better chance if we stuck together.”

“They’re easier to manage from behind. Better to open an escape route.”

“Um…” Izuku says, questioning whether or not he trusts this guy yet. Between the rapidly-encroaching robots and the rather ominous-looking tasers on their whip-like tails, he decides he’ll just have to take his chances. “Go for it, we don’t-”

Before he can finish his sentence he’s twenty feet in the air, soaring over the reach of said robots. With their weapons still focused on his newfound companion, their backsides were exposed. With a detonation of each of his fingers, one by one, his villain score rises. He calls the clouds of ash back to him and grits his teeth as his fingers reform.

As Izuku watched, his new friend grappled with a scorpion, clambering atop its head and dancing around electric lances from the rest of the robots as they shredded the poor thing. 

He swings around a tail to escape, and his arms extend in an almost unsettling way, forcing the remaining robots to electrocute each other. The boy sinks to a knee, breathing heavily as his arm retracts.

Izuku laughs again, amazed.

“That was so cool! Can you tell me about your quirk sometime?”

The kneeling boy grimaces as he catches his breath. “Maybe if we make it into the same class…”

“Oh, that’s right. I guess I should get going! We should get going.”

“No thank you. I’m quite content to rest for a moment. What use am I to anyone if  I’m too tired to fight?”

“That’s smart! Um… I’ll see you when we make it in, I don’t doubt you will!” Izuku shouts as he turns away, rushing down the street with tiny sparks hanging in his wake.

In the brief moment between his departure and the following chaos, Mezo Shoji smiles. His eyes don’t convey the same confidence.

Unfortunately for Izuku, he’d chosen the wrong time to sprint down that street, and as he makes his way toward more points, the real test starts.

Down the street, a skyscraper crumbles, and the air fills with dust and terror.

Hanta Sero, a boy with tape dispensers in his elbows (or at least he prefers that terminology over other sticky metaphors) is currently reenacting a scene from his favorite comic book series.

In ages past, long before quirks manifested, his ancestors dreamed of superpowers like this. A young boy in America gaining a quirk by being bitten by a radioactive spider hardly seemed like the strangest thing that could happen, but a couple of hundred years ago it was firmly in the realm of fiction.

Unfortunately for Hanta, he doesn’t have super strength or heightened durability like the comic’s protagonist. He uses two lines of tape to swing between balconies, occasionally ripping vases and flowerpots off their stands to bash robots with, before making the mistake of yanking himself toward a robot monkey and ramming his fist into its fac”.

“Gah!” he screams, seeing red for a moment as the brittle metal shatters under his knuckles - and his skin splits open. The robot crumples as he reels himself back to a balcony to examine the damage, wincing as he moves the digits of his right hand.

Blood trickles down and drips off his palm, splashing against the wood below. 

The boy frowns, but shoots another line of tape out to the next balcony. Cradling his arm, he swings, and decides he’ll stick to projectiles and the like until he gets protective gear.

Overhead, a green-haired blur rockets between buildings. Asui “Call Me Tsu” Tsuyu doesn’t have the same limitations as Hanta. Hybridization-type quirks like hers, a frog-based enhancement quirk, tend to provide much more robust physiques. 

Her tongue shoots out twenty feet and grapples a robot, pulling her in for a powerful overhead kick. Without a single stop, she bounces off the ground and continues in search of more points. As she flies through an intersection, carefully weaving between power cables and stoplights, her peripheral vision catches something approaching at high speed.

About an instant before its hit her, she twists out of its path, and-

An explosion blasts her into a pole, and the wielder of said explosion finds himself tangled in cables.

“Watch where you’re going, frog-face!”

She croaks, trying to regain her breath and assess her injuries. 

Katsuki Bakugou’s introduction to his future classmate isn’t exactly a shining example of his attitude, but as soon as he untangles himself, he swings down from the lights to help her up. He swears when he saw her scraped palms and the way she favors her left leg.

“Shit, sorry. Are you alright?”

She straightens and glares at him. “No thanks to you. You really ought to watch where you’re going.”

“Yeah, well… Oh, forget about it. See ya,” he says, stepping back and pulling his arms to his sides.

As abruptly as he had shown up, he vanishes in a blast of smoke. Irritated, Tsuyu mutters some very unkind words before limping the pain off and continuing on her way.

Out of the moderately sized lake at the end of the street surges something massive. Explosions roar overhead as someone rushes to meet it.

As the dust billows like a tsunami down alleys and streets, a colossal figure begins to move. A grinding noise echoes off the buildings, concrete popping and cracking as the goliath rolls over them. Izuku stops in his tracks.

Even as it begins to move, he has trouble processing how big it was. This was the zero-pointer? It looks vaguely humanoid, but the scale is completely off the charts. He takes in all the details he could; a dent in its long, brick-like head where a chunk of concrete had hit it, reinforced joints, shielded limbs and massive tank-like treads. 

His eyes follow down to the street, and he sees something other than rubble against the asphalt. 

A gargantuan metal arm slams into the building next to the figure, and concrete chunks the size of small cars come raining down. Dust trailed in their wake as they slam into the ground, bouncing and cracking despite their size.

Izuku’s heart races. Did I just watch somebody die?!

He sprints, and as he gets closer, he can see someone pinned under the block of concrete. The ground shakes as the massive robot approaches, and another block of concrete comes crashing down. 

Izuku won’t make it in time. Whoever is stuck there is going to be crushed as he watches, unless he does something about it.

Before Izuku can think, his body shoots into action, and his left leg shatters from the force of One For All. He all but blinks into existence hundreds of feet down the street, and relief hits him before the pain does. He takes aim and all five of the fingers on his right hand erupt, knocking the falling debris off course.

“Aidez-moi!” yells the trapped boy, whose legs are very stuck under hundreds of pounds of concrete. By some miracle (or test design), the boy’s legs seem to be intact.

“I’m here, I’m here! Can you- uh, can you move your legs?”

“Oh, merci!” the boy says, struggling against the weight of the object. Small fragments of stone rain down on them. “No, they’re completely stuck!”

The noise of the massive robot crawling toward them gives them both pause, before the French-speaking boy begins to panic. 

“Can you lift it at all? I don’t wish to die!”

Izuku limps over and grabs the edge of the concrete, pulling with as much force as he can muster, but even his quirk-aided strength doesn’t budge it. He looks into the face of the monstrous zero-pointer as its mechanical arm comes down to squash them like bugs, and he feels his heart squeeze.

His right leg ruins itself with force it shouldn’t be able to generate, and he flies into the air. Izuku’s left arm slaps the beast’s arm away with an arc of fire and ash and his eyes tighten, both against the wind and the feeling of his entire arm turning to a pyroclastic surge.

And then he’s twenty feet from its face, carrying all of his momentum with his next blow, and his remaining limb detonates with an explosion that would scare Katsuki. The metal dents, shrieking as it tears apart. A cloud of superheated boy arm shoots out of the back of its head. The entire structure of the beast lifts into the air, flying backward and collapsing against a building.

And now, Izuku has a problem: he’s hundreds of feet in the air, and all of his limbs are either missing or broken.

He hangs in the air in much the same way as birds don’t.

Barely holding on to his consciousness, he sees and hears the French boy down below, yelling for help once more. Through the dust, he can make out several figures running toward him. Beyond them, he sees people staring, pointing…

Oh, and there’s the ground, of course, rushing up to meet him. At this point, his vision feels more like watching a slideshow, and his eyes close without his permission.

“Sorry, mom.”

The ground hits him with much less pain than he’d expected, and a lot more limbs.

“Am I dead?”

“No. Probably not.”

“Oh, that’s nice. Thanks for catching me.”

“That boy intrigues me.”

“I’m surprised at you, Shota. The boy’s gone and ruined himself.”

“His control leaves a lot to be desired.  It’s like he’s using his quirk for the first time.”

Present Mic looks at him, his jaw dropping. “Whaaaaat? No immediate dismissal? I knew you would soften up eventually!”

“Shut up, Hizashi. I’m not going to go easy on him. He’s clearly going to pass the exam,” Aizawa said, zipping a sleeping bag up to his nose. “If he can handle that power without destroying himself, he’s got the right attitude. That’s all I’m saying.”

Izuku’s eyes flutter open. Above him, his masked acquaintance stands, cradling his six webbed arms. Shiny burns marked where he had caught Izuku. Half-crumbled buildings rose up on either side of them, smoke and flames drifting off the vines and trees on their facades. A wispy cloud of ash casts the street into shadow, and Izuku’s heart begins to race.

His core tightens as he tries to push himself off the ground, but he can’t find purchase on the asphalt beneath him. 

“Relax, you’ll hurt yourself worse. Help is on its way,” the boy standing above him speaks. His eyes flit from Izuku’s face to his arms and back up.

“Oh. Ow,” Izuku mutters, delirious as his head falls back to its resting spot. “I blew my arms off, didn’t I?”

He lifts what remains of his arms from the ground, choking out a laugh as he stares at the glowing embers where his elbows should be. 

“Your legs appear to be broken as well.”

Izuku coughs. He cam hear footsteps approaching, and recognizes the voice of the boy he’d injured himself trying to save.

He reaches his arms to the sky once more, and focuses. He feels a tugging sensation in his mind as he reaches for the ash cloud above them, and as it begins to spiral, he screams.

“Please get away from me,” he gasps, his voice hoarse from pain.

Steps retreat from him, and he groans with effort as a vortex of still-glowing ash makes its way from the sky down to him. It splits in two as it approaches him, and as it makes contact with his arms, his vision begins to blur. The stumps of his arms glow brighter and brighter as they rebuild themselves. The air around him begins to shimmer, and he knows no more.

Mezo likes to think he has a strong stomach. Neither blood nor broken bones had ever made him queasy. The noise his new friend made while his arms reconstructed themselves, however, made him feel sick. 

In seconds, the ordeal is over, and the boy’s arms collapse. Their incandescent heat fades into pink skin as his eyes roll into the back of his head. The boy’s head tilts to the side and he vomits.

“Move! Move. We need to get this boy to the infirmary at once,” a firm voice calls, and the ancient hero known as Recovery Girl makes her way into the street. She reaches the downed boyand assesses his condition. “He’s overheated.” 

A pair of assistant robots rush over and slide a gurney under him. They lift him and begin their trek out of the exam site. Recovery Girl begins checking over the rest of the prospective students, giving each of them a kiss on the head and a handful of nutritious snacks as her healing quirk takes its effects.

Mezo thinks it’s weird until she reaches him and makes the burns on his arms fade in less than a minute.

The morning after the exam, Izuku finds himself at the beach again. 

His newly-healed legs shake under him as he stumbles his way to the pavilion where his journey had begun. His bottom lip shiver as the pain he’d been holding in threatens to spill out. Half-heartedly, he checks his phone for a response again. 

Toshinori hadn’t even opened his messages since yesterday. Momo had tried her best to assuage his fears, and Katsuki had yelled at him for doubting himself. The salty wind makes his eyes feel dry, and they began to water.

He slumps against the table and buries his face in numb hands as he sobs.

Ten months of work, and now he has to wait. He feels pathetic for crying. Did he make it in? Was all of this work for nothing? Did his reckless use of One for All disqualify him? 

He wishes his mentor would respond.

A week passes. A week of self-flagellation, moping, and absentminded exercises passes, and he neither hears nor sees Toshinori. 

As Izuku lies in the dark on the floor, he’s grateful for the updated decor. His computer screen illuminates the room, revealing still-empty shelves and his All Might bedspread hastily stuffed in his closet. Tissues spill over the top of his small trash bin, and he reaches for a fresh one to blow his nose with. 

His phone buzzes once, revealing another message from Momo. He lets the screen go dark and flicks his used tissue toward the trash, staring at it when it lands on the floor a foot from its target.

The smell of dinner seeps under his door, and his stomach protests. He picks out the sounds of his mother’s cooking, her footsteps, the door opening, and a loud gasp. A deep, familiar voice joins the chorus of household sounds, and Izuku sits bolt upright. 

He stands and hurriedly pulls off his tear-soaked shirt, replacing it with the first option in his dresser. The lights flick on as he listens carefully, and Inko excitedly invites the visitor in. He reaches for the doorknob before turning and tidying his room at breakneck speed, barely realizing he’s got One for All activated, and flies out the door.

“Toshinori?” Izuku says, walking into the living room.

“My boy! It’s good to see you!” 

Something sizzles in the kitchen, and Inko excuses herself. “Make yourself at home!”

“Pardon my interruption, I hope I don’t keep you from your dinner.” An envelope sits in Toshinori’s oversized hands, looking comically small. “I come bearing gifts.”

“Is that…?”

“It is. I’ll let you see for yourself.”

The envelope exchanges hands, and Izuku carefully tears it open. His heartrate picks up as a small medallion clatters out of it, a glow emanating from the center as it produces a hologram. He reaches down and picks it up, watching with rapt attention as All Might appears.

“I am here as a projection!”

“Oh, goodness. This is embarrassing. I hate seeing myself in recordings.”

Izuku looks from the hologram to his mentor, and back again as it explains Toshinori’s absence.

“Was the paperwork really that extensive?” Izuku says, sniffling as tears make their way into his eyes again. 

“Don’t cry, dear boy. You’ve done well.”
“I know, I was just so worried. I thought that maybe I had disqualified myself with my injuries. Either that, or they had noticed how I tripped when I started the exam, or…” 

“You’re alright!” Toshinori says. “You’re more than alright, really. Listen to the recording!”

“You passed the written portion with flying colors, and ended your practical exam with a total of twenty-six villain points. That alone would have edged you into a place here, but we aren’t some second-choice school!”

Izuku’s eyes shone and his lip trembled. Toshinori beams at him, and gestures back to the hologram.

“How could any self-respecting school deny those who act with heroic hearts? Izuku Midoriya, you were rewarded with seventy-five rescue points! Come, young man. This is your hero academia!”

With that, the dam breaks, and the tears come rushing out again. For a moment, the world is blurry and joyous, and he feels a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“I’m proud of you!”

“Oh, Izuku!” his mother cries, rushing out of the kitchen to wrap him in a bone-crushing hug. She squeezes him until the tears stop, and gives a look to the man standing by him. Toshinori awkwardly makes eye contact. She mouths a word of gratitude, before dragging Izuku to the dining room. 

“We’d better eat dinner before it gets cold. You’re welcome to stay, if you’d like. I think we have ice cream.”

Toshinori waves his hands. “Thank you for offering, but I should get going. I still have a lot of paperwork to do.”

Izuku wipes his eyes on his sleeve and smiles at his mentor. “I’ll see you around?”

“You will! I might not be able to meet until school starts, but I’ll try to fit in some training time. No slacking off!”

Whirs and hums fill the air in the room as medical equipment does its work. Tubes snake across the floor to a throne of metal and silk, where a broadly-built man sits. The bottom half of his face is hidden behind a sturdy oxygen mask. The top of his face, built of scar and pale skin, has no nose nor eyes nor hair to mar its perfect egg-like shape. 

A television replays the scene for him. A young man shatters his legs and blasts his arms away, sending a hundred-ton robot crashing to the ground. 

Despite his lack of eyes, the man watches attentively. His cheeks tighten as he smiles under his mask.

“Nice to meet you, Nine.”