Izuku Midoriya was a sickly child. He was like his mother in that way. She had been like a match, burning bright but fast and being extinguished before Izuku had turned three.
He didn’t remember much about his mom. What he does remember is a haze of fevers and exhaustion as doctors filtered through their home. Sometimes they were there for him. More often they were there for her.
“Reach for the sun,” She had told him one day, her skin pale and a weary smile on her face. “If you keep trying, then nothing can stop you.”
She hadn’t lived much longer after that. Izuku can’t remember any other words she said to him, but he treasured those ones.
Reach for the sun .
Growing up, Izuku struggled to follow her advice. He’d inherited her sickly demeanor, and spent a lot of his time in his bed after the Bakugou’s had taken him in. But all through his childhood, the dimness of that home was interrupted by a bright light. Kacchan. He shone brighter than all the stars in the sky. He was the opposite of Izuku. He was strong, he ran outside and always came back covered in scrapes and bruises but he never cried. He was Izuku’s best friend.
“Don’t worry Zuku!” Kacchan said. “I’ll beat up the sickness for you!”
“I don’t think it works that way Kacchan!” Izuku replied. “You can’t fight the flu.”
“Watch me!” And he would try. He would run around and bring him water and crackers and he would beat up anyone who made fun of him for being weak. His magic would pop out of his hands in little sparks and the other kids would run away.
“I think your magic is so cool Kacchan!” Izuku beamed at him.
“Of course it is!” Kacchan scoffed. “I’m the best!”
“Do you think I could ever get magic?” He asked.
“Of course you will!” Kacchan said.
“Maybe I could fly.” Izuku said, staring up at the sky. “I could touch the sun.”
“Hah? Why would you want to do that?”
“Because if I could touch the sun, then everything would be okay.” Izuku said.
“But what if you fall?”
“You’ll catch me, won’t you Kacchan?”
But then, Izuku took a turn for the worse, and everything changed.
“No!” Kacchan snapped, his magic bursting out of him with a pop. “He’s not going to die!”
“Katsuki,” Masaru said firmly. “You don’t get to decide that. It would take a miracle to save him.”
“Then I’ll make a miracle!” Kacchan snapped. “I’m not giving up on him!” He grabbed his cloak and stormed out of the house angrily.
They didn’t see him for two days. Izuku was afraid that he would die without seeing his friend again. He didn’t want that. So he made himself hold on.
He wanted to say goodbye to Kacchan before he died.
He was seven years old, and he’d never reach the sun.
But when Kacchan came back, Izuku got better. And not just from the flu, from everything. He was healthy, he could run around, he could fight. He could stand up.
It was a miracle, and Izuku didn’t know how Kacchan did it.
He could reach for the sun.
Except, everything had changed.
“I’m not the same weak little kid anymore Kacchan!” Izuku protested. “I can take care of myself!”
“You don’t know anything! You’ll always be useless, like a Deku!” Kacchan sneered. “How many times do I have to tell you to leave me alone! I want nothing to do with you!” Izuku hadn’t understood what changed. But now when Kacchan looked at him, he had a mixture of sadness and resignation in his eyes that Izuku had never seen before.
They were brothers, but it didn’t feel like it.
Mitsuki started berating them more. Kacchan was picking up on her words and her personality and he started lashing out. He was like a snake, lashing and biting and injecting venom. Izuku didn’t know what to do.
Kacchan and Mitsuki only got meaner once Masaru died. They missed him. Mitsuki’s scathing words turned into sharp fists and slaps. Kacchan’s hands started to burn .
Sometimes, all Izuku could think to do was leave.
He’d go out to the forest outside his house, he’d find the tallest tree he could, and he’d climb until the branches started to crack underneath his weight. He’d reach as high as he could, but the sun was always out of reach.
And that was how the years passed. Mituki would hurt him and Kacchan, Kacchan would lash out, and Izuku would climb for the sun.
He could never reach it. His mom had said when he reached the sun nothing could stop him, but there were so many obstacles right now.
He needed to stop looking at the sun, and start learning how to catch his fall.
He was running.
Kacchan was in a bad mood today. Besides, Mitsuki said they needed more firewood, and Izuku was more than happy to go get it.
So he was running through the forest. He found his favorite tree, one that twisted and turned taller than any of the other trees in the forest. He scampered up, finding the easy hand and footholds, and was soon as high up as his weight would let him go. He could see far into the distance.
His eyes widened when he saw a wagon racing down the path, out of control. Something had spooked the horses and the person that was supposed to be steering it was slumped over, clearly not conscious. While the path was clear now, Izuku was sure that the further it got into the forest the more likely it would be that it would overturn and someone could get hurt.
He had to do something!
He scrambled down a few branches, waiting as the wagon got closer. He had to time this perfectly. His hands shook, but he couldn’t hesitate.
He jumped from the branch, and for just a moment, he flew . And then he fell.
He landed on the horse’s back and firmly grabbed the reins. And he pulled. The horse bucked but he held firm. If he could keep his grip on the chicken eggs while Kacchan chased him with explosions then he could hold on to these reigns.
He managed to slow the wagon down and the horse came to a stop. He turned around to see what had caused the man to lose control of the reins only to see him staring, eyes wide and glassy with an arrow in his throat. His gut churned, but he jumped off the horse and raced to the carriage (because it wasn’t a wagon like he had first thought but a carriage. Is that the royal insignia ?) itself, opening the door.
“Are you okay?” He blurted out, seeing the man inside. He was a tall thin man, with long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail, save two tufts that stuck out on his forehead like rabbit ears.
“I’m alright my boy.” The man said, his voice deep. He smiled at him, blue eyes soft. No one had looked at him like that in a long time so softly and happy to see him. “Thank you for saving me, that was very brave!”
“Well I couldn’t just let you die!” He exclaimed. “The man in front, someone shot him with an arrow, do you know why someone would do that?”
The man sputtered. “Ah, no reason I’m sure it was just bandits or something!” The man laughed awkwardly and Izuku tried to keep his suspicion off his face. This man was hiding something. “I was heading back to the palace to bring a package back to King All Might.”
“You’ve been to the palace?” Izuku gasped, eyes widening. The palace sat atop a hill in the distance, spires driving into the air further than any tree Izuku had ever seen. Maybe he would reach the sun there. He wondered what this man was doing so far away. Mitsuki’s land bordered the edge of the kingdom. “You know King All Might?”
“Yes. I, er, work for him.” The man coughed awkwardly. “I’m his secretary.”
“That’s so cool!” Izuku beamed. “What is he like?”
“Larger than life.” The man smiled warmly, but then he seemed to really look at Izuku and he frowned. “Young man, are you alright? Did you get hurt saving me?”
“What?” Izuku looked down at his body to see if he had gotten any injuries from saving this man. He hadn’t, it was just the typical bruises from Mitsuki, and burns from Kacchan. He had a dark bruise on his face and a handprint wrapped around his wrist. Scattered starburst burns littered his arms. “No, this is from before.”
“What happened?” The man asked, reaching a hand out. Izuku instinctively stepped back.
“Nothing.” He said honestly. This was normal. “Just-nothing.”
“Young man is there someone hurt-”
“I should go.” Izuku blurted out. “I have some chores to finish up. Is there anything I could do for you sir?”
“I’m alright.” He stepped out of the carriage, going to unstrap the horse. “I can ride this horse back home. Thank you for saving me, please allow me to repay you. I could talk to your parents and-”
“Oh no it’s okay!” Izuku did not want this man near Mitsuki. He seemed so frail, she would rip him in half. “I really need to go, have a great day sir!” He sprinted off, ignored the shouts of the man, and ran home.
He was fine.
Yagi Toshinori was looking for an heir to the throne.
Everyone was asking him about who would have the throne when he was gone. Right now, if he were to die, it would cause a war over who would be the new king. And Toshinori didn’t want that, he knew he needed an heir, but how was he supposed to make a decision?
Mirai had suggested his nephew, Mirio, but Toshinori had spoken to him and it didn’t seem like he wanted to rule. He didn’t know what to do.
A few people had suggested a tournament, a series of competitions to see who was the most worthy, but All Might didn’t want it to be all focused on strength. It needed to include an aspect of intelligence.
His mind once again wandered to a young boy with green hair and bruises and burns on his skin.
Maybe it would be nice to see all the worthy heirs in the kingdom.
Word got around fast that the King was having a competition for someone to be his heir. Izuku didn’t think much of it. He had work to do. Besides, he had no possible hopes that he could win anything like that.
But that didn’t stop Mitsuki.
“All young men and women ages fifteen to eighteen are invited.” She said at dinner that night. “Which means you brats are invited. So you better go, and if you don’t win don’t bother to come home.”
“I don’t need to win some stupid contest to prove I’m the best.” Kacchan huffed. “I’m not prince material.”
“Shut up Katsuki.” She snapped. “I didn’t raise the both of you to be so ungrateful. You leave in the morning.”
And that was that. No arguments. Except Kacchan still tried to argue, but Mitsuki put a stop to that quickly. Kacchan limped to their room, nose bloody and eyes determined.
Sometimes, Izuku thought of the man in the woods, the one that had smiled at him so warmly. He really wished he could have someone look at him like that again. Not the disdain from Mitsuki, or the thinly veiled angerpainsadness from Kacchan (what did he do to make him feel that way?).
Izuku wondered what it would be like, to have someone be nice to him.
“Kacchan, you could win.” Izuku said firmly. “You could win and we could leave. You’re the strongest kid in the world.”
“I’m not prince material.” Kacchan said again. “I can’t be the heir stupid Deku. And why would I want to leave?”
“Kacchan we could live in the palace!” He argued.
“Shut up Deku.” He snapped. “You need to be realistic. Kids like us don’t live in palaces.” He shoved him and stormed over to his bed.
“But you never know if you don’t try!” He jumped onto his bed, hearing it squeak underneath him. “You could reach the sun Kacchan, I know you could if you would just try.”
“Don’t be stupid Deku.” He huffed. “Do you know what happens to people like you? People who reach for the sun? They get burned.”
There were a lot of kids there. A lot. There was no way Izuku could win this. He was an average kid with no magic. But Kacchan could win.
The first competition was there to crunch the numbers. It was an obstacle course.
Izuku could do obstacles. He had been climbing trees his whole life.
“Look, it's Deku!” Someone sneered. Izuku didn’t know his name, he just knew it was one of those kids that had been picking on him since he was a kid.
“I’m surprised he didn’t die on the way over.” Another kid snickered. “Little Dying Deku.”
He tuned them out, focusing on the task in front of him. Maybe he couldn’t win, but he could prove to himself that he wasn’t that same weak little kid that needed Kacchan to protect him.
The task started, and Izuku was off.
They had to swim across a lake first. Izuku wasn’t the best swimmer, but he knew enough. Some kids had dropped him into a frozen lake when he was a kid and he’d nearly drowned. He would have if Kacchan hadn’t rescued him. He didn’t want to be helpless like that ever again, so as soon as the river thawed he went to practice.
He was glad he chose to do that now.
He wasn’t the first to make it to the other side, but he was pretty early. Some kids hadn’t even gotten in the water yet. They must not know how to swim.
Next up was a large pit with small tightropes leading to the other side. Anxiety felt like lead in his gut as he thought about what it would be like to fall off of those.
He was quick on his feet. And he had good balance. He had to, to climb as high as he could.
So he sucked in a breath and started racing across. He kept himself centered. His feet were fast.
Kacchan was at the front. It didn’t surprise him. Kacchan was the best.
The last obstacle was a climbing wall. It stretched high into the sky. It was taller than anything Izuku had ever climbed. Just the thought of being that high made his heart race in anticipation.
In this competition right now, he was reaching for the sun.
His hands easily grabbed a hold of the wall. And he was scrambling up, the feeling of climbing familiar as he went up .
He got to the top, and he swore that the heat of the sun felt more intense.
He got sixth. There were five people ahead of him. But he had placed in the top ten. He didn’t have magic. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest person here.
But he was reaching for the sun.
Next up was a team battle. Izuku ran to Kacchan, but his brother just sneered and turned away. He didn’t want his help.
They all had five points per team, and Izuku was determined to stay in until the end.
He had to play this smart. And the smartest way to do this was to stay in the middle. He needed to not attract attention to himself. Not the way that Kacchan was.
Kacchan had almost all the points, and everyone was going after him. But Izuku knew better. He couldn’t beat Kacchan. So he would avoid him.
In the end, Izuku barely made it. He had a rag tag group of kids. None of them could get on another team,, they were a bunch of magicless, scrawny kids. But being underestimated worked to their advantage. Their team had fifteen points, but they placed fourth and managed to sneak their way into the finale.
He was in the finals. He had done it. He wasn’t a useless Deku after all.
The last competition was a bunch of one on one brawls. Izuku had no hopes to win these. He wasn’t a fighter. He was sneaky, and smart, but when it came to raw strength he was lacking.
He stood, facing his opponent with his heart in his throat.
He didn’t know the name of the kid he was facing. He had been on Kacchan’s team. He was big and brawny and Izuku was going to get the shit beat out of him.
The referee called for them to start and the guy charged. Izuku sidestepped, and he barreled past. It was like he was fighting a bull.
He frowned. He knew he couldn’t win this, but he couldn’t give up either.
What would Kacchan do?
Probably blow him up. But he wouldn’t give up. He wasn’t useless and weak like Izuku was. Even if he was outmatched he would keep getting up when he got knocked down. He would never let himself lose.
So Izuku stood up, and he decided to fight.
The guy charged again and Izuku jumped, slamming his elbow into his head. He stumbled and Izuku wasted no time, slamming his knee into his opponent's neck.
“He dropped to the ground and Izuku searched for something, anything, he could do to win.
They were next to the boundary line.
Before he could adjust and get up, Izuku had already shoved him over the line.
Kacchan dominated his fight.
Izuku didn’t see how he could have thought otherwise.
His next fight was against someone from his team. He took a couple hits to his ribs, but he struck hard and fast. He had learned to, once Kacchan had stopped protecting him.
He left this one with a bloody nose and bruised ribs, but he was the one left standing.
No one could even touch Kacchan.
The next fight was hard . This guy had magic that made his fists able to turn into metal. Just his hands though.
But that meant his hits hurt .
Izuku aimed for his face. But this guy had longer reach. So if Izuku was close enough to hit him, he was close enough to hit Izuku.
This fight was about stamina. Izuku just had to stay standing longer than this kid.
He heard his ribs crack. He grit his teeth and hit back, slamming his fist into this guy's throat, then grabbing his head and slamming his knee into his face. He hit Izuku in the face and he saw stars but he lashed out, throwing his elbow into him. They both went down. Izuku got up, the other guy didn’t.
The crowd cheered.
Toshinori watched the green haired boy win his second to last fight, and couldn’t stop the hope from growing. He wanted that one to be his heir.
The blonde one with the explosions dominated his fight again. He hadn’t even taken a hit.
He hoped the green haired boy won.
Izuku had to fight Kacchan next. Kacchan, who had been like his brother. Kacchan, who lashed out at him and hurt him. Kacchan, who would always be stronger than Izuku.
He didn’t stand a chance.
But that’s okay. Because Kacchan would win. And maybe then, Izuku wouldn’t be able to reach for the sun, but he’d be close enough. Because Kacchan would be there.
“We did it, Kacchan,” Izuku said. “We won.”
“Stupid Deku,” Kacchan scoffed. “We didn’t do anything.”
“You’re going to be the next king!”
Something flashed in Kacchan’s eyes. “No. I don’t want to be King. I only got this far to prove I was the best. But I don’t have to beat you to prove it, everybody already knows.” He turned around, walking to the edge of the ring. “Have fun playing pretend in the palace Izuku.”
He called him Izuku. He hadn’t called him anything but Deku in so long. “Kacchan, wait-”
He stepped out of bounds. And Izuku won.
“I’m not living in the palace. It’s time you finally moved on,” Kacchan said, which didn’t make sense. Why would Izuku need to move on? Why wouldn’t Kacchan come with him?
What had changed, all those years ago?
“What happened?” Izuku asked. “Why can’t you stay? What changed?”
“You were going to die,” Kacchan snapped. “And you were too weak to do anything about it. So I fixed it. You owe me, Deku. Now go become the Prince and live a good life. And leave me out of it.”
“Be careful Deku,” Kacchan said, turning away from him. “Do you remember the story of Icarus? He wanted to reach the sun too. Don’t expect me to be there to catch you when you fall.”
Izuku tried to run after him, but he was quickly surrounded by a group of excited people congratulating him.
He had done it. He had won. And Kacchan was gone. He would never hurt him again.
So why did everything feel so wrong?
The first person to greet him in the palace was the man he had saved in the carriage.
“My boy!” He greeted. “It’s so good to see you again!”
“You too sir!” Izuku smiled at him. “I’m sorry, I never asked your name?”
“Yagi Toshinori.” The man smiled, before growing in size. “Though you may know me as a more common name.”
Izuku shrieked. “King All Might?” He stumbled backwards. “I-what?”
“My magic manifests in my body to help me protect my people.” The king informed him. “It’s a magic passed from generation to generation, to the kings of this land. And I will be passing it on to you.”
“Yo-you will?” Izuku gasped. “I’ll get magic?”
“Indeed.” The man smiled warmly at him. “Izuku Midoriya, will you be the heir to my kingdom?”
Izuku hadn’t had someone smile at him like that in a long time. He would do anything to have people keep smiling at him like that. To keep placing comforting hands on his shoulder that didn’t hurt.
He had tried like he had to prove that he could reach for the sun, but right now, he felt like he was already there.
“Yes.” He smiled. “Yes, I will.”
He thought of Kacchan, who had returned home. Of Mitsuki, expecting him to come and whisk her off to the palace.
If he wanted to reach the sun, he had to leave the Earth behind.
Izuku hadn’t known what it meant to be a prince.
There were so many expectations. He had to sit this way, speak that way, never out of turn. He had to relearn everything about himself.
It was different. But Toshinori said he believed in him.
Izuku didn’t believe in himself.
He could be caring. He could be strong. But he didn’t know how to lead.
He had spent his whole life trying to run, and now he was being rooted down.
“Your Highness.” Sir Nighteye sounded annoyed. “You were supposed to be in the meeting fifteen minutes ago.”
“The one discussing how to spread taxes outside the main city.”
Izuku’s heart dropped. He hated tax meetings. “And I have to go?”
“Absolutely, it’s one of your duties as the heir to the throne.” He raised an eyebrow. “Is that not what you want?”
“Of course it is!”
“You know, Midoriya,” Nighteye began, “when you accepted your role as the heir to the throne, no one could have expected you to know what you were getting into. It’s okay if you don’t think you’re up to the task.”
“It is?” Izuku asked hopefully. Because there was no way he could do this. He was not good enough, he was an imposter hoping to pass himself off as a prince even though he spent most of his life collecting firewood and raising chickens. But if Nighteye was saying it was okay, maybe it would get better. Maybe soon Izuku could be the prince everyone needed him to be.
“Of course.” Nighteye said. “We can always look for a new heir. I, for one, was against looking for someone through a competition. You have no experience in politics or how to rule a country.”
Izuku felt his heart drop. Oh . Was Nighteye saying he wasn’t cut out for this? Izuku was trying his best, but this was all so new to him.
“It’s okay!” Izuku said firmly. “I can do this! All Might believes in me!”
He couldn’t let him down. Toshinori always smiled at him. Izuku didn’t want that to change. He couldn’t disappoint him. All Might was the only person that had ever looked at him like that.
“Midoriya, I have this country’s best interest at heart. I want to make sure they’re being led by the best person possible, and I will do anything to make that happen. It’s just,” The man stood up to his full height, towering over Izuku. “I highly doubt that person is you.”
Izuku’s eyes felt wet but he quickly shook his head, trying to focus. Princes don’t cry.
He had to do this.
He skipped lunch that day and went to the library to read up on politics. He normally would have met with Toshinori for dinner, but then he was brought last minute for a fitting because there was a party coming up. By the time he was done he was exhausted and all he wanted to do was go to bed, but he still had to read over the files from the meeting earlier and he had to keep up.
He couldn’t let anyone down.
(Why did it feel like he was falling?)
By the time he woke up he didn’t have time for breakfast before he had to be out hearing the needs of his people with All Might. He plastered a smile on his face and listened carefully. This was something he was good at. He was good at helping people.
He had only slept a couple hours last night, but he had managed to finish the paperwork.
He grabbed something quick at lunch but only had time for a few bites before he had to get to sword fighting lessons. He was more sluggish than usual, which his instructor noted, but Izuku assured them he was fine.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Mirio asked, catching Izuku as he stumbled. Mirio was Nighteye’s nephew, was he waiting for him to fail just like his uncle? He couldn’t show weakness.
“I’m fine.” He said firmly, ignoring the chorus of imnotfinepleasehelp in his head. He stood up, ignoring the black spots in his vision. “I have to get to my studies.”
He had classes with his tutor next, where he was being taught to read and write. The words were swimming all over the page and every time he blinked it got harder to open his eyes again.
He was fine.
(He was falling.)
(Was anyone going to catch him?)
He managed to get some sleep that night, but the next day was just as hard. He felt like he couldn’t breathe.
He read up on Icarus, studying the story.
He had flown too close to the sun and fell to the ocean below.
Had Izuku gotten too close?
Is that why he was drowning?
He shook his head and forced a smile on his face as he attended his dinner with Toshinori.
He can’t let anyone know what’s wrong.
Shouto Todoroki is suffocating, and he would give anything to be anywhere else.
He swam to his room, ignoring the other merpeople around him staring at him with sorrow as they saw the burns on his shoulders.
He had never felt so much like he couldn’t breathe this deep underwater, and yet he couldn’t breathe.
He needed to get out.