Midoriya Izuku loved rooftops.
Ever since he was old enough to climb, Izuku had always aimed for the highest spots he could get to. The back of the couch, a kitchen counter, on top of Aunt Mitsuki’s fridge on one harrowing (for everyone else) occasion when he was three. It hadn’t taken him long to graduate to trees, walls, and finally rooftops. He loved the way everyone looked so different from above, how the higher you got the smaller everything became. He loved how the wind took on a different kind of chill after you passed six stories high, crisp and biting like frozen apple slices. More than anything in the world, he loved that nobody ever looked up. It was like hiding in plain sight. Izuku could sit and watch people, clinging to the rails with his bare heels drumming lightly against the wall, analyzing their quirks or just making up fantastical stories about their lives completely unnoticed.
(Izuku really liked the unnoticed part. Away from so many eyes, always watching.
Pity Disgust Hatred Contempt .)
So when he stood on a rooftop with All Might of all people it didn’t matter that he was still trying to force sludge out of his throat and lungs, that his head was still throbbing from the lack of oxygen followed by the force of the man’s punch knocking him out. There was no way that he wasn’t going to ask his question. The only question that mattered. Stood on a rooftop, Izuku’s safe haven, it felt like the stars had aligned to finally give him real hope and assurance to cling onto.
Midoriya Izuku hated rooftops.
- - -
Izuku silently watched the number one hero leap away in a blur of blond hair and taupe pants, leaving behind the brittle remnants of hope slipping between the teen’s fingers like grains of sand, and he waited. Waited for the hopelessness to hit him, for the yawning pit of dark emptiness that had been gnawing its way through his intestines since he was four years old (clinging to his mother’s skirt to try and hide from the glares of strangers who knew) to finally claw its way into his heart and make it stop. To put an end to long nights of staring at the ceiling with burns and bruises and breaks screaming at him to make it stop ; to take the useless, weak coward that they had had the utter misfortune to be made a part of and cast it away, just like society wanted…
Except it didn’t come. The void in his gut dimmed until the only thing Izuku felt was a tightness in his chest, like something swelling inside his lungs until he could barely breathe. It filled him until his entire body shook with it, his pulse roared in his ears like taiko drums and his blood screaming in his veins like it was on fire. Then in the next breath it faded, receding back until it nestled just beneath his sternum, the buzzing of hornets against his ribcage softening into the rumbling of a well oiled machine. Like it was meant to be there, occupying a space already carved out for it to sit. Maybe it always had been, Izuku just never noticed before. It felt almost familiar, like the warmth of a hand pressing down on his chest firmly. It felt comfortable.
Izuku wasn’t sure when he’d gone from standing to sitting. He could feel the rough gravel of the cheap roof covering cutting into the back of his thighs through his school pants so it had to have been a while. He picked up a black pebble, rolling the uneven surface between his thumb and his middle finger in time with some even breathing. It had been a while since he had checked out, especially for more than a few seconds. Izuku was going to sleep well tonight at least. But for now, three more breaths and he would get up and see about getting off this rooftop.
(And never coming back. Rooftops were tainted now, ruined, he could never sit on one to forget, only to remember. His sanctuary burned around him while he stood in it, helpless.)
Back on his feet, finally, Izuku’s next order of business was finding his backpack. Or rather, finding his backpack and collecting all of the things strewn across the rooftop from inside his backpack and returning them to their rightful place. (Had he done that or was it a result of the insane path he had taken up here. It seemed like everything was accounted for, though, surely he should have lost some things in transit?) He lingered for a moment on Vol.13 of Hero Analysis for the Future, fingers dancing over the charred edge of the front cover, ink smeared and thin card curling from the water damage it had gained not too long afterwards. The tightness in his chest flared to life again for a moment, a breath stuttering in his throat that ended in him hacking up another mouthful of thick repugnant ooze. He wished he had a water bottle right now, anything to rinse that taste from his tongue.
“Wishing won’t get you anywhere, Izuku. Focus on what you can do now, not what you can’t.” Izuku muttered and ground his teeth as he stuffed the last of his books, Vol. 13 included, into his backpack and snapped the old battered clasps shut with slightly more verve than he had intended. Sighing, he looked down at the broken teeth of the clip in his hand before he stuffed them in his pocket and slung his backpack over one shoulder, “I guess you were old anyway, and I should’ve been more careful. Maybe I can fix it when I get home.”
The roof entrance door was locked. Of course it was. Izuku let his forehead thud against the metal and closed his eyes, focusing on his breathing. Maybe he should see a doctor about this tightness, it couldn’t be healthy. Yeah, right. Izuku huffed a dry laugh at himself as he dug into one of the side pockets of his backpack, pulling out a battered old tin that used to hold mints but now held the lockpicks he’d fashioned himself out of a few hair pins he had managed to steal from the bathroom. Who was he kidding? Doctors didn’t take quirkless patients, and the ones that did charged prices Izuku wouldn’t be able to afford even if he worked his entire life to pay them. He caught his tongue between his teeth as he worked a pin into the lock carefully. No, if whatever this tightness was a symptom of could kill him, then it would be far more reasonable to just die from it. It’s not like society hadn’t prepared him well enough for an early grave, after all.
(Red spider lilies in his shoe locker, spilling out across the floor. Razors in slippers, lists of ‘techniques’ glued to his chair. Thick black marker scrawled on desktops. Whispers in hallways, hissed in his ear in passing.
Die useless worthless unwanted. )
With a click the door swung open, and Izuku took the time to tuck his tin of picks back into his backpack before he scurried down the stairs as fast as he could, skipping the bottom couple of steps for each flight. If he got caught here he would have to explain how he had gotten in and subsequently, how he had gotten off of the roof. That was a conversation he really didn’t want to have again. Fortunately he made it to the ground floor without running into anyone, and a quick dash across the foyer got him out of the main doors before anyone could catch much of a glimpse of him. He ignored the shouts behind him and slammed his shoulder into the door, thanking his luck when it swung open easily, allowing him to dart out into the crowd of people leaving work in downtown Musutafu.
After a couple of streets he slowed to a walk, doing his best to blend into the crowd. Which he did surprisingly well for a kid with dark green hair and a bright yellow backpack. He kept his head down and his eyes glued on the sidewalk in front of his feet, letting his thoughts drift a little as he walked. He wasn’t sure when a little drifting had become totally zoned out, but the next thing he knew he was walking directly into someone’s back. Stepping back he muttered hasty apologies before he realized the man he’d walked into hadn’t even noticed, and was too busy trying to see over the crowd of people milling around the entrance to the shopping district, talking in hushed whispers and concerned tones to each other.
Curious, Izuku took a moment to listen in to what the onlookers were talking about. Ah, villain attack. Usually Izuku would be excited, reaching for his analysis notebook, looking for the heroes. But now, he supposed that wasn’t realistic of him. Absent-mindedly he rubbed his chest, trying to soothe that tightness swelling up like an overstretched elastic band around his lungs. Though all thoughts of it vanished when for just a fraction of a second the crowd parted in front of him, letting him get his first glimpse of the villain causing untold mayhem in the shopping district.
The sludge villain .
Wasn’t All Might supposed to be taking care of that guy? Izuku cringed when around him people picked up the question he hadn’t meant to ask aloud, wondering where All Might was and yes he was definitely in town someone’s sister had seen him and why wasn’t he here when clearly this villain was dangerous. Izuku took advantage of the diverted attention while people talked about All Might to squeeze past them, edging his way to the front of the crowd where he could see what was definitely the same villain he could still taste on the back of his tongue and feel gurgling in his lungs every time he drew breath. With another hostage, great. Where were the heroes?
Looking around, Izuku could see no less than five heroes present at the scene and apart from Backdraft who was putting out building fires (why were the buildings on fire? The sludge villain definitely didn’t have a fire quirk) none of them were doing much of anything. Izuku frowned, confused. The villain had a victim, why weren’t they doing anything? An explosion rang out, drawing Izuku’s attention as a plume of fire and smoke burst from the sludge villain himself. His eyes widened as he finally looked, truly looked at the hostage. Tufts of spiked ash-blond hair, explosions… Izuku could have made the connection with those two things alone but right at that moment the villain turned, no doubt to flaunt his captive at the inactive heroes. Scarlet eyes bore right into his soul with an expression Izuku had never, ever seen shine in them before.
When he looked back on this later, Izuku would be sure that he could hear shouting from the heroes, or maybe from the crowd itself behind him as his feet carried him past the barricade and into the flame filled street. Right now, however, the only thing Izuku could hear were those same taiko drums as on the rooftop, pounding in his ears in time with his feet. For a moment his mind was blissfully blank, needing a second to catch up with what exactly was happening before it roared to life once more. He needed a plan. He’d been trapped by this villain, what did he remember? Not much, okay, new plan, what stands out? Nothing, he’s made of sludge, the only things that stand out are his mouth…and… eyes?
Before he could think about it too hard, he slung his backpack off of his shoulders, shifting onto his back foot and turning on his heel to gain some momentum to make up for his lack of actual throwing strength, and hurled the entire backpack at the villain’s eyes. The sudden loss of weight made him stumble forwards, but not enough to drop him on his face. A howl of rage above him told him that his backpack probably hit its mark, but there was no time to worry about that right now as he thrust his arms into the sludge elbow deep and started digging around. The second sound that reached his ears that wasn’t his own heartbeat almost had him crying with relief, the sharp inhale of breath just above him that said Kacchan had been able to get a lungful of air. He knew Kacchan was shouting at him, and he knew he said something back, but right now he was focused too intently on his primary goal to care what it was he actually said. He needed to find Kacchan’s hand.
Right as his fingertips brushed against something solid in the rancid sludge oozing over his arms, a dark shadow fell over him. Teeth clenched, he forced his arm forward, deep into the muck and wrapped his hand around the blond’s firmly before he looked up, expecting to see a wave of dark filth crashing down towards him. Instead the intimidating figure of All Might loomed over him, one large hand coming down to clasp both his and his childhood friend’s in one firm grip.
Izuku saw the hero’s mouth move, but couldn’t quite make out the sound of the words over the drumming in his ears. He opened his mouth to ask him to repeat what he said, at the exact same moment that the man reared back and punched the villain so hard it ripped all the air from Izuku’s lungs. Izuku was almost positive he felt rain on his face. That’s funny, he thought as his world went dark, the forecast said it would be sunshine all week.