Mean Rabbit - Skeleton_of_society - 僕のヒーローアカデミア | Boku no Hero Academia (2024)

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

Rumi doesn't like to stick to one place. Some might chalk it up to having a prey animal's restlessness, but that's a load of bull because she's not a prey animal. Rabbits are very badass, thank you very much, and this one will gladly give you a kick in the head and then chow down on a hunk of beef after work. But regardless, she doesn't like staying put.

Her first job (if you could call it that, because walking around with a license but no contract doesn't really count, at least to the government) was up in Sapporo. Then she moved south, all the way to Matsuyama. But that quickly got too crowded with weaker heroes so she moved to Osaka. Gran Orca drove her out after she stepped a bit too far, so she relocated to Tokyo. Only to be outshined by All Might, which she really should have considered before making the move. As confident in herself as she may be, she knows fully well that no one can beat All Might. Which brings her here: Musutafu, an offshoot of Tokyo close enough to schedule talks with Commission reps but far enough from the big guy to carve out her own spot. She'll probably move within a year or so, though, just for a change of scenery.

"Help, over here!" One of her ears twitches to the direction the sound came from, and Rumi instantly tenses up, ready to spring. Rustling and a yell of frustration spur her into action, and she jumps high. It takes less than a minute for her to cover a distance of five blocks and a fraction of that time for her to kick the perp brandishing his Quirk at a random desk jockey. She holds the villain down with her feet and looks the civilian over.

"You good?" she asks, though it's really only a courtesy. The man looks fine, if a little rough around the edges.

"You're Miruko!" the man yells instead of answering. Rumi holds in a sigh because it's probably going to be one of those conversations.

"Nice catch, captain obvious." One upside to her public persona is that she gets to be an asshole most of the time. But even that's a small comfort when she has to deal with drooling fans left and right.

"My son loves you!" the man says, ignoring her comment. Oh, I'm sure he does, Rumi thinks but doesn't say out loud. That's another downside to her career, the sexualization of heroes is a right bitch when it's you in the spandex, that's for sure. "Can I have a picture? Or at least an autograph?"

"Fine, but make it snappy!"

The man wastes no time rushing up and holding up his phone to take a selfie. Part of the villain ends up in the shot and Rumi even strikes a pose because that's what her PR consultant says she should do. The man walks away soon after and Rumi is left to wait with the villain until the police arrive. When they do they don't even ask to see her license and take the villain quickly so she can head back on patrol.

The rest of the day passes by pretty quickly. Musutafu isn't a hotbed of crime like Hosu is—it's one of the reasons why she doesn't plan on staying for too long—but there's enough action to pass the time. Some girl with a gigantification Quirk makes her debut across town while Rumi stops a robbery. She's only a little miffed about being cut from the news for the other heroine, but she brushes it aside because she knows how important debuts are. She still wishes she could've given the big villain a kicking, though. A fight like that would be intense, dangerous, and most importantly, fun.

Around the time school lets out, Rumi heads away from where the school buildings are. Kids mean autographs, and autographs slow down patrols enough when there's only one or two, but the hundred a building's worth of kids would ask for would keep her away from any crime in the area. The shattering of glass, cries of panic, and the clink of coins hitting the ground a few blocks over. Yet another robbery is in progress.

Like before, Rumi jumps high and uses the buildings to cut across busy streets. Her ears swivel around wildly, pinpointing the location of the criminal. She finds them, the mass of ugly green slime tearing down a road with a cash register inside of it. She hits the ground right in front of them, shielding a frail, skeleton-like man behind her. "Get to safety," she orders. "I've got this."

She doesn't look behind her, but she hears him hurry across the street. Focusing forward, Rumi raises her fists. The slime villain doesn't even slow its charge, but that will work in her favor. When the green goop is right about to slam into her, Rumi leaps and brings her left heel down on the floating jaws of the person. They cry out in pain and drop the register, but the slime blocks another hit from landing.

With a wholly unnecessary backflip, Rumi makes some breathing room. Liquid opponents are tough for a fighter like her, but this one clearly has eyes and teeth for weak points, so it should be simple enough for her to show off a little. "Come 'ere you slippery bastard!" Rumi taunts. "If you don't, I'll make sure they have to scrape you off the pavement!"

The villain gurgles something profanity-laced and charges again, spreading out its mass in an obvious attempt to capture her. Rumi dives to the side easily and lunges back in to knee the villain in the back of the eye. There's another grunt of pain, and the villain becomes more desperate. Their body starts to break off into more puddles, and Rumi suddenly has to focus on more and more angles.

She ducks under a wave of green and kicks aside another. Half of the liquid gathers to rush at her in a ten-foot wave but she jumps over it. The fight continues, Rumi trying to create an opening to nail the villain in the eye and the villain trying to make their escape.

A crowd starts to gather which would usually be a great thing, but it's only another detail to focus on alongside all the parts of the villain. It's why she doesn't notice that a part of them slid into a nearby manhole until it's too late. By the time she sees it, half of the villain is already in the sewer. Swearing, she runs to the manhole, pulls the cover off, and dives inside.

The stench makes her scrunch her nose and the disgusting water sticks to her legs, but she focuses on her surroundings. It's dark, and her eyes are slow to adjust, but her ears are perfect for this. The sound of sloshing water sends her to the left, but she also makes some noise, which spurs the villain on.

After ten seconds of being chased, the villain bursts out of another manhole and Rumi follows. They're under a bridge now, and the villain is slow to adapt to the change in field. Rumi is not. She rams her shoulder into the mouth of the villain and grabs the eyes with her bare hands. Repositioning, she pins the solid bits to the floor with her feet and holds one eye in her hands. "If you make a move I will write you a prescription for dentures. Don't resist and we won't have a problem. Do I make myself clear?" The villain groans but none of the slime moves. Rumi allows herself to look around, relishing in her victory.

"Oh my god, you're Miruko!"

Rumi sighs and tenses her muscles, forcing down the curse that wants to come out of her lips. She turns her head (which causes her hair to stick to her torso which would normally be fine but she's covered in sewer water and slime right now so it's pretty gross) to see a scrawny elementary schooler. "Yeah, I am. Can you call the cops? I need transport for this sh*t-stain and I can't exactly dial."

"S-sure!" the kid says, dropping their charred school notebook and pulling a smartphone from their pocket. They tap on it a few times and quickly talk into the mic. Then he hangs up and looks at Rumi like she's a goddess. "Can I have your autograph?"

Rumi raises an eyebrow. "My hands are full, kid. Unless you want to hold this eyeball, you ain't gettin' one."

"I can do that!"

And the kid actually does because he's apparently some kind of hero fanatic. Rumi sees his sketches of other pros as she looks for a blank page to sign, and takes up a whole page with her hero name upon his request. Then she takes the eyeball back and hands him his book.

"The cops will be here soon, so scram," Rumi suggests. "What're you, ten? You shouldn't be out here this late in the first place."

"I'm fourteen!" the kid yells. "And school got out like a half hour ago."

"Yeah, and carrots give you good eyesight."

"But they do?" the kid says. Rumi glares at him. "Or they don't! They totally don't! But I really am a teenager."

"You got some kinda mutant Quirk then? 'Cause teenagers shouldn't look like walking noodles." The kid almost looks malnourished if she's honest about it. His neck and wrists are painfully thin, and his uniform hangs off of his body. Not to mention his awful red shoes that look impossible to run in.

"N-no, that's actually what I want to ask you about." The kid looks down and fiddles with his notebook and pen. "I was hoping to ask All Might this, but… can someone Quirkless be a hero like you?" He looks up at Rumi, tears in his eyes and desperation on his face. It's completely different from how he was before, but Rumi doesn't let it get to her.

"How often do you work out?" she asks.

"I… never?"

"You been hittin' the books?"

"Yes?"

"Do you know how to throw a punch?"

"No."

"How many hours do you spend training a day?"

"...zero."

"Then no. You can't be a hero like me. Or anyone else worth their salt, really."

"W…what?" the kid says. He flinches back like he's been hit and drops his notebook.

"You heard me," Rumi reiterates. "Look in the mirror, kid. When I was your age I was fighting adults twice my size, lifting daily, and running a hundred and forty kilometers a week. You're made of noodles and doodle in your notebook about how sexy Mount Lady is." The kid colores scarlet but doesn't reply. "Sketches and daydreams won't make up for laziness. So unless you're willing to do a one-eighty, pick a dream where you can do just that to get to it. Dream."

The kid leaves and a few minutes later the cops show up. They take the villain off of her hands and Rumi goes home. She showers, eats, and relaxes on the couch until she falls asleep. She never once suspects that the conversation she had with that green haired kid was the start of something much bigger.

Chapter 2

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It's taken Izuku ten years to realize that he's an idiot. It's an astonishing thing, and the more he thinks about it the more he wants to scream at his past—like two hours ago—self. The notebook in his lap laughs at him as he looks at the notes and admires the sketches he spent so long on. You wasted your time on me, and now your shot is gone. Go on, cry about it. That's the only thing you're good at, anyways, it says. And Izuku can't disagree with the statement.

But Izuku doesn't cry. He forces himself not to. He squeezes his eyes shut and breathes steadily. In and out, over and over again. He tosses the notebook on his dresser, the fruit of his useless labors sliding across the polished wood and falling into the crack between the wall and the back of the dresser. Dully, he realizes that it might come in handy later, but it feels so good to throw that old part of himself away, so he doesn't get up to grab it.

Laying back in bed, he looks at his posters. All Might smiles down on him, rippling with muscle and oozing confidence. To think he'd had pictures of him in his room since he was three and never once thought that it would be a good idea to bulk up. God, he really was an idiot.

He sits back up in bed and stands. There's burns on his uniform from Kacchan, but they'll wash out—they always do. He shrugs off the outer coat and untucks the button down under it. He pulls it and the white tee under that off in one motion. He looks down at his arms, his chest, and his stomach, all pale and lacking any definition. He looks at the All Might poster.

He grabs a pen and marches over to the eighteen month calendar on the wall and flips to see the February page. He writes slowly and deliberately so the characters will come out neat and tidy. Then he gets on the floor, back up with his hands holding him up from wood. He does a push-up so bad even he knows that it's a joke. But he gets back up and tries again.

The night goes on like that, with his only break being dinner. But Izuku keeps trying, pushing through even as his arms shake and scream in pain. Miruko called him lazy. Well, he'll show her lazy.

[x]

"You want me to haul trash. Me, a seasoned pro with an average of fifteen saves a day. Taking trash from the local dumping ground, which is the beach for some reason, to the proper place for trash."

"Well, you'll be putting it in dumpsters which will be taken away by garbage men, but in a sense, yes."

"Yeah, you can shove that idea right up your ass."

"Miruko," her PR consultant (which is a nice way of saying handler who's woefully underpaid) sighs. "Your marketability needs work. You have the skills of a top pro along with the looks and style, but your personality is—"

"Fine the way it is, thank you," Rumi interrupts. "I don't need to change myself to get my rank up. Endeavor is number two and he has the personality equivalent of a flaming sack of sh*t."

"Endeavor has created the perfect persona for his position," her consultant disagrees. "His cold exterior and brash stubbornness are an excellent contrast to All Might, which makes him popular with people who prefer someone more serious than the symbol. He is the perfect combination of awe inspiring and relatable. But you? You don't tolerate any kind of help, even from sidekicks, which takes away from your popularity. You have a superiority complex which is warranted, but it grates against your small traces of humility. To put it simply, if you don't do something to make you more likeable, you won't crack the top five."

"And hauling trash is going to fix all of that?" Rumi leans back in her chair and puts her feet up on the desk.

"It'll make you seem more down to earth," he explains. "Community service is a good way to build up brownie points, and will give people one less reason to not like you."

"There's no way in hell that I'm going to spend my time picking up garbage!"

But the next day she's doing exactly that. Well, not quite. A cameraman and her PR guy follow her as she walks the length of Dagobah beach, their footsteps marking where they've been, and the sun beating down overhead. It would be a nice summer's day, if she wasn't about to pick up filth.

"Here's good," the cameraman says, pointing to an old truck that's covered with old tires and paint cans. "If she could lift it up a little, I could get a great action shot. And then maybe we can do one of her sitting on that barrel over there like she's resting."

"Yeah that's fine," her PR guy agrees.

"I'm right here y'know," Rumi says, impatiently tapping her foot. "And I want this photo op BS done quick so I can actually get to work!"

"Yes, yes, just lift the truck and we'll be out of your hair soon."

They're not out of her hair soon. In fact, they take pictures for two whole hours—long enough from it's position high in the sky to being obscured by the piles of trash. Of the million photos taken, Rumi doesn't see one. Not that she wants to, in fact she could care less about how she looks, but she does care about breaking the top five, and it would at least be nice to see what's going to make that happen.

When the two men leave, Rumi instantly takes out her frustration on an unsuspecting school bus.

Crumpling the metal also has the benefit of making it easier to move when the time comes, which won't be for a while considering that there's an estimated one hundred square kilometers of trash on the beach. And that wasn't even factoring how high the piles are. Rumi really has her work cut out for her, but that's all the more reason to get to work.

She first makes sure that there's no one on the beach. It takes a while, but eventually she feels like it's safe enough to knock over the biggest pile of trash with a perfectly placed kick. It falls with a massive roar of colliding metal and rubber, kicking up sand as it hits the ground. Rumi moves on to the next pile, and the next, and the next after that. Most fall with a single kick, but a few require a more delicate touch.

By the time her watch beeps, the beach is level. There's no more clearings, but there's also no more towers waiting for a strong gust of wind to be blown over onto whoever's below. It's four o'clock, and she knows she should be heading back. She'll stop by tomorrow morning and haul a chunk away before work—the place isn't going to change overnight. But something makes her linger. It's a choice that changes her life for good.

"C-c'mon! I've got this!" Rumi's ears swivel to the left, catching someone or something trying to move a heavy object. Said person or thing sounds like a teen boy. Sighing, she starts to make her way over to where the sound came from. It's probably some idiot kid trying to pry something shiny out of a pile of garbage. She'll scare the f*cker and tell them not to trespass on her beach.

When she reaches the source of the noise (which is at the very edge of the beach where the only clean spot is), she finds the last thing she expected. A kid doing deadlifts with a rusted barbell that has buckets of rocks for weights on the sand. Or at least, she thinks he's trying to do deadlifts. His form is god-awful, and checks every box on the how-to-hurt-yourself-while-lifting list. Arched back? Yep. Slumped shoulders? Oh yeah. Legs spread too far apart? He's practically doing the splits. Rumi can't help but want to end the sin against weightlifting that stands before her.

"What the f*ck are you doing!?" she shouts, startling the kid into dripping the bar and falling on his ass. He scampers away as Rumi approaches, but stops when he sees her face.

"Miruko?"

"You sure as hell ain't doin' me, kid." She kicks his sh*tty rig to the side.

"I-I-I'm here to exercise!" the kid cries. "I can't work all my muscles doing bodyweight stuff at home, and we can't afford a gym membership. I figured that someone probably threw out some weights—"

"No, you idiot, what the f*ck was that exercise you were doing?"

The kid blinks, surprised. "Deadlifts? They're good for your lower back, core, and legs, right?"

"Not like that, they're not." Rumi marches over to where the kid's bar landed and grabs it. "Get over here!" she orders. The kid obeys, and they stand across from each other, the bar between them. "This," she says, bending over and grabbing the bar, "is how you deadlift. Back straight, feet shoulder width apart, shoulders square. You raise your back until you feel the weight and then you push upwards with your hips. See?" She does a couple of reps, going slow so the kid can get a good look. "And don't do 'em on sand! Put a board down or something."

"Thank you," the kid says, bowing. "Why did you help me?"

"Because I'm going to be here a while and if I have some idiot kid slipping a disk because he can't deadlift right down the beach I'm going to get real mad."

The kid looks at her for a while, thinking. "If that's the case, can you teach me how to squat and bench press?"

Rumi sighs, knowing that if she doesn't he'll f*ck it up. "Fine."

An hour later, and the kid is exhausted. It's obvious that he's never done a lick of exercise in his life, but he's trying to get in shape so Rumi can't really judge. But it's almost funny to watch him gasp and wheeze as he tries to do a proper box jump.

"You look familiar," Rumi says, looking down at the kid as he lays face down on the sand. "Have I threatened you before?"

"I met you last week," the kid gasps. He rolls over to look at the sky. "You told me I couldn't be a hero because I was lazy."

"You're the Quirkless perv," Rumi remembers.

"I am not a perv!" the kid defends.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Why do you even wanna be a hero, anyways? There's lots of jobs you could get."

"I wanted to be like All Might. Just really cool and popular, you know?" Rumi does know, but she doesn't say anything. "But now…" the kid tilts his head to look at her, and for the first time, Rumi sees how fired up those green eyes of his can really get. "Now I want to show people that I'm worth something. I don't want to be a weak, Quirkless, waste of space. I want to be strong. I want to be awesome. I want to prove everyone who told me that I can't do it wrong!"

Rumi thinks for a while. "What's your name, kid?'

"Midoriya. Midoriya Izuku."

Notes:

Alright, on to chapter two. It's short like the last one, but that's what I plan to do with his fic. It's really just something easy to work on whenever I don't feel like writing my other fic. That's not to say that this one isn't a priority. I still want to compete it, and I have a plan, but if you're expecting something big like 365, then you're outta luck. This is just the Quirkless Deku fic I've always wanted with Miruko thrown in to make Izuku better then he would be on his own.

Cheers!

Chapter 3

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

One is easy. Two is easy. Three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine are all easy. Ten is a little difficult, as are eleven through fifteen. Sixteen is where it starts to hurt. Seventeen feels like he tried to lift a hundred kilos the rep before. Eighteen makes his legs shake. Nineteen almost makes him quit. And twenty?

"Oh, c'mon! That's nothing, you've got like five left in you! Push, you pencil-necked wannabe! Push!"

Izuku pushes, crying out in effort and pain as he stands up. It's slow going, and if he wasn't completely focused on getting the weight up, he would have time to count to ten and back down to zero before he's standing straight.

The moment he completes the set, he throws the bar down. It hits the board under his feet and rolls backwards onto the sand below. Izuku falls to his knees, thighs feeling like jelly.

"Cool, now do those core exercises I told you about and then start running."

Izuku looks over at his slave driver—because no one who makes people do that much without rest is a mentor—like she's insane. "After that? I can't feel my legs!"

Miruko shrugs. "Sucks to suck. Remember, you wanted this, and even asked me to make sure you didn't half-ass everything."

"I can't feel half my ass right now," Izuku mumbles.

"What was that?"

"Nothing!" Izuku shouts. "I'll do the core stuff and run! Just no more squats, please! Why did I have to do so many of them!?"

"Muscular endurance." Miruko walks over to him and forces him to stand up. "You're not lookin' to get a monster one rep max—if you were, you'd be doing more weight with less reps and more rest. You ever seen old-school strongmen?"

"No."

"They were f*ckin' massive. Two meters, two hundred kilos, and lifting half that over their heads. Now, most of 'em were good athletes, but they were built for power. They'd go for a few hours lifting heavy with tons of breaks." Miruko roughly pokes him in the chest. "But you don't want that."

"I don't?"

"Hell no. Most couldn't run the twelve-hundred in under twelve minutes, and even that would kill them."

"Then what do I want?" Izuku asks.

"Endurance, duh." She knocks him on the head, gentle enough that it doesn't hurt, but with his weak legs, it nearly sends him sprawling. "You have seen marathon runners, right? In school books, at least."

Izuku nods. "They're skinny, right? And tall."

"Tall people are overrated," Mirko says, waving that off. "People yammer on about longer stride length and bigger lung capacity, but what really matters is how you're built."

"Doesn't your body type depend on your height?"

"Shut," Miruko orders. "Marathon runners train to run for a long-ass time. The best ever recorded was by some african guy at just under two hours, but the majority of runners were going at it for over four hours."

"That's a long time to be running," Izuku says dubiously.

"You bet your ass it is," Miruko agrees, "and they could only do it because they trained their muscles to be able to keep going for that long. It's the same principle here."

"But I'm not running a marathon," Izuku points out. "And all Might is built like an old strongman. Or maybe a bodybuilder. Either way he's still big. Aren't muscles good whether they're built for power or endurance?"

"You ain't All Might, kid," Miruko says. "No one but he himself is."

"There are other big heroes, too, though. Endeavor, Death Arms, Fat Gum, Tiger from the puss* Cats—"

"They have Quirks, you don't," Miruko interrupts. Izuku winces, but she doesn't say anything gentler. "They're built like brick houses because their Quirks are meant for that stuff. Or in Tiger and Endeavor's cases, their Quirks make up for their bulky frames. Endeavor can literally fly, and I've seen Tiger dodge attacks faster than people can see with that contortionist bullsh*t he does. You can't do that, and you never will be able to do that."

Izuku looks down at his hands which are red and raw from holding the bar. He looks up at Miruko, or more specifically: her muscles. Every bit of her is like a coiled spring, taught and ready to burst. She's light and compact, perfect for dodging and quick maneuvering. And her small statute makes her a smaller target in general.

"I understand," he says.

"Good. Now get to f*ckin' running. I've got sh*t to clean and the last thing I have time for is babysitting."

Core (which is just a fancy way of saying abs and upper legs) sucks. Izuku thought it would just be sit ups. But as it turns out, core is one of the most important body parts when it comes to being fit and athletic. So instead of just sit ups, Izuku does leg raises, flutter kicks, in and outs, chair sit ups (which can drop off the face of the earth for all he cares because they are awful) and side bends. After all of that, he has one left. The plank. Normally it wouldn't be bad, but every part of him feels like it's on fire, and he falls five times just trying to hold the position. And there's still more to be done after that.

Running sucks. Izuku thought he would be better at it, just because he has a habit of running to school and back every day, but he was wrong. The sand gives out under his feet, forcing him to push harder than usual. His legs are tired from all of the squads, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, calf raises, and lunges, which makes it really hard to move at all, let alone quickly. And to top it all off, Miruko suggested a nifty little thing called interval training. It goes like this: Izuku jogs for thirty seconds. Then, when his phone beeps, he sprints as fast as he can for another thirty. Once that's up, he goes back to jogging. After every jogging period, he knocks five seconds off the cycle. So he might start jogging for thirty and sprinting for thirty, but he ends up jogging for five and sprinting for five.

Exercise, Izuku decides once he gets home and collapses on his bed, sucks. He smells bad, his clothes are soaked with sweat, and he can't feel anything. Well, anything other than exhaustion. His mother looks at him like he's insane when he tells her what he did, and that he did it willingly, but she smiles and makes him a big dinner because she's a good mother like that.

Izuku thinks exercise sucks, until he wakes up in the morning and sees rolls on his stomach. He pokes them and they give way easily, but then he flexes. They become slightly more defined, and are more resistant to force. Calmly, he googled is it normal to get abs after one week of working out? The answer is no, but there's one account from a person who was really skinny and got them after one day of doing intense exercise because they had such a small body fat percentage.

Izuku relaxes back into his bed. Good, he thinks. He's not a freak of nature. Or maybe he is, being Quirkless and all. But that's not so bad anymore. Miruko believes in him, even if she'd never say it outright and laughs every time he fails. But she's never once said he wasn't as good as other people because he doesn't have a Quirk, and she only doubted him because he was an idiot. It's much better than the kids and teachers at school, Mom, and…

Kacchan's been himself lately. The insults mid-class haven't gotten any better or worse, and he's still his loud brash self. And, of course, he doesn't have an ounce of belief that he can do it. It's tiring to deal with, but Izuku can live. It could be much worse, after all. He could still be thinking that he can make it with just his notes. He's on the right track now, and that's good enough for him.

He falls asleep easily once his head hits the pillow. But then his mom wakes him up and tells him to shower, so he doesn't get any real rest until ten at night. Then he wakes up at six thirty for school and gets ready. His muscles are sore, and he finds himself slowing down; the thought of dealing with everyone at school again isn't appealing at all. But then he remembers that there's a workout waiting for him after, one that produces results and is near someone who, well, doesn't believe in him, but at least thinks he's worth something. He's out the door ten minutes later, ready for another day.

[x]

"Thank you."

"That's a funny way of crying out in pain. Really, doing that many pushups when your arms are shaking is dumb. You coulda tapped out at ten."

"But you said two sets of twenty."

"As a goal. Just because I can squat a thousand kilos doesn't mean I do it daily."

"You have a Quirk, I don't. I have to make up for that."

"Yeah, but that ain't gonna happen if you keep killing yourself with exercise every day."

"I'll rest tomorrow."

"Do whatever, just as long as I don't have to carry you to the f*cking hospital."

"You called me scrawny, though. Wouldn't that make carrying me easy?"

"It's the principle of the matter, dumbass. I carry one teenager and then suddenly I'm a taxi service."

"That's a slippery slope fallacy, which is a sign that you can't come up with a better argument."

"You think I give a sh*t?"

"... No."

"Good."

"Why are you even helping me?"

"I'm not. I yell at you and encourage you to follow my workout routine. It's not the same thing."

"I think it is."

"Yeah, well, you're an idiot."

"You're still helping me even if you don't think you are. If you didn't scream at me every time I was about to give up, I wouldn't be making progress. And the exercise I've been doing is really well thought out—I looked and there isn't a better one out there for what I'm looking to be."

"I was like you."

"... What?"

"Hold your horses, I didn't walk around thinking I could make it without any effort or doodle in my notebook about sexy heroes."

"That was one drawing, and was about her marketability!"

"Sure it was. Either way, I wasn't like that. I was like you now: desperate to prove myself to those around me and make it on my own. Do you know what it's like growing up as a literal bunny-girl?"

"I can imagine."

"Don't, it f*ckin' sucked. Everyone treated me like I was this meek, shy, weak-willed little girl, even when I was a teenager. I got sick of it, and because of that I got angry. I yelled, I swore, I lashed out—but I was weak. I couldn't throw a punch, I was tiny, and I was dumb. The kids at school thought I was trying to do that stupid tsudere sh*t you see in them old re-runs. They laughed and called me cute, and I wanted to get back at them for it.

"So I started working out and learning to fight. All of it was self taught, and I did it wrong. My progress was slow, and I injured myself a lot. Hell, my ankles are still weak from all the sh*t I put them through. But I made it. Got my license and debuted at nineteen fighting a giant."

"I kind of remember that. I think I saw it on the news when I was six or seven. It was really impressive."

"Yeah, and it made people take me seriously. It made them respect me. It made them think of me as better than them. I've even had a few people from my old middle and high schools apologize to me and admit that they were wrong. Which is just what I wanted."

"So you're helping me because you think I can do the same?"

"It's been less than a week since you've started taking sh*t seriously. For all I know you could give up tomorrow or the next day, because you haven't even proved yourself to me yet."

"Ouch."

"The truth hurts. Anyone can go for a week, but a month? A year? That takes mental strength. You've gotta keep going even when your progress starts to slow. Take more than two steps from the starting line, and maybe then I consider what I'm doing to be help."

"Then what are you doing? Because it counts for something."

"I'm being to you what I wished someone was to me. I wish I had someone yelling down my neck from day one. It would've been a lot better for my growth. I wish someone would've given me a shot to work to prove myself. But I didn't get that."

"Thank you."

"Don't thank me. Pick your ass up and keep going, and then thank yourself for having the balls to try to make it pro without a Quirk."

Notes:

This is really fun to write, and people seem to enjoy it which makes me really happy. It's also easier for me to write compared to my other fic. Not that 365 is a chore to work on, it just requires a lot more intense focus than this does. It's why this is getting an update so fast.

Chapter 4

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Izuku gets off the train and walks with his head down over to the nearest sidewalk. He moves around most of the people walking, and does his best to be as unnoticeable as possible. But at the same time, he's looking at his phone, trying to figure out where his destination is. He hangs a right around the first corner he passes and walks a few more blocks. Then he takes a left and stops in front of a low, cinder block building. The door is down a set of narrow stairs, and there's a broken heater just beside the stairwell. The brick hasn't been washed in decades, and the windows are boarded up. But the sign says that it's open, and the sound of loud rock music permeates through the walls.

Izuku takes a few unsure steps forward. Miruko had told him to find the seediest place for this sort of thing. She said that it was like getting good food. The business that looks super dirty and cheap but is still in business after a few years is something special. She also mentioned that it's a bonus if the workers rarely speak Japanese and have immigrated somewhat recently, but that doesn't really apply here. But the rest does, so Izuku walks down the stairs and grabs the handle. It's sticky. He pulls on it anyway, cringing as the bottom of the door scrapes against the cement below.

A bell rings as he steps inside before it falls off the top of the door and clatters to the floor. Izuku whinces, because looking inside, he can see that everyone in there is looking at him.

"I-is this a boxing gym?" he asks, voice cracking. The fighters inside laugh a little but go back to their activities. People spar on mats, punch bags, and lift weights. Izuku realizes that he asked a stupid question.

"Why do ya want t'know?" a big, beefy man asks as he approaches Izuku. He's completely topless, and on the left side of his chest where a name tag would be on a clerk he has a tattoo of the word 'Bart.'

"I want to learn how to fight," Izuku says, taking a half step back. His heel kicks the fallen bell. The man raises an eyebrow.

"Why?"

Izuku swallows and prepares his answer. Miruko gave it to him, and he doubted that it would work at first, but in a place as hardcore looking as this…

"Because I don't want to be a bitch anymore!"

The whole gym seems to still, and the only sound is the guitar solo of the song playing from the speakers scattered around the room.

"Oh, hell yeah!"

"Don't we all!"

"You sure as hell came to the right place for that, little man."

"That's enough of that," Bart (is his name Bart? The tattoo would suggest so but he doesn't want to assume) says. "Go back to your sh*t and let me talk to the kid in peace."

Izuku watches as the gym goers resume their previous activities. One man racks what must be three hundred kilos of weights in preparation to squat. Another slips their boxing gloves on. A few more do arm curls in front of a dirty mirror.

"Done ogling?" Bart asks. Izuku looks down in embarrassment.

"Sorry."

"What happened to not wanting to be a bitch?" Izuku flinches at the harsh tone.

"Sor—"

"The f*ck did I just say?" Bart leans down and looks into Izuku's eyes. He's so close that the smell of beer and sweat fills Izuku's nostrils. "You walk in here, talk big, and then have nothing to back your words up. You're gonna need to fork over a helluva lot of cash if you wanna—" a wad of yen smacks him across the face, cutting off his words.

"I've got money," Izuku says. He stands up straight and sets his shoulders. He pushes his chin out and does his best to look confident. "And I said I didn't want to be a bitch anymore, not that I wasn't one." It feels weird to insult himself in front of what's basically a stranger, but it feels like the right thing to do. "I'm willing to work hard. I'm willing to learn. But I am not willing to be walked all over. Not now, not ever again."

Bart leans back, considering Izuku's words. His fingers touch where the yen impacted his cheek. If Izuku squints, he thinks he can see a red mark there. "Much better," the man says after a while. "Much, much better. You just might be worth a damn. Follow me."

The man leads Izuku to the back corner of the floor, passing racks of weights and people shadow boxing in front of mirrors. Everyone working out is fit and muscular, and Izuku can't help but compare himself to them even if they're twice or even three times his age. Four months of strength and endurance training is a drop in the bucket to what they've got, and he looks like a twig next to them. But somehow that only makes him want to work harder.

"Alright, let me see you hit that," Bart says, pointing to a black punching bag. Izuku walks up to it and co*cks a fist back. He slams it as hard as he can into the punching bag, causing it to sway slightly. "Good grief that was awful."

Izuku looks behind him to see Bart with his head in his hands. "Have you ever been in a fight?" Izuku thinks of all the times he's been shoved aside or had explosions thrown in his face. He never once did anything back.

"No."

"I can tell." Bart steps forward and pulls Izuku away from the bag. Using his feet, he pushes Izuku's legs so they're staggered. He pushes his shoulders down causing his knees to bend. Finally he positions Izuku's hands so they're in front of his face and upper torso. "This is how you want to stand. Low center of gravity, solid stance on the ground, and arms protecting your face. You also wanna be on your toes for better mobility. Got it?"

"Yeah," Izuku says, standing on the balls of his feet. The position he's in is completely foreign, but it's not uncomfortable. "So what now?"

"When you punch," Bart explains, grabbing one of Izuku's hands and making it form a fist, "you hit with the tips of your knuckles and your wrist has to be straight. If you don't do that, you'll break your fingers and f*ck up your hand. Do you plan on boxing or doing MMA sh*t?"

"I want to be a pro hero," Izuku says. "So whatever works for that."

"A pro, huh? Smart of you to learn to fight like this first. Not many heroes put in effort in anything but they're Quirks."

"Well, I'm Quirkless so it's my only real option."

Bart stills for a moment and looks at him with wide eyes. "You're Quirkless?" Izuku nods. "Damn. Then you better be ready to work your ass off."

Izuku works more than just his ass off. He works his arms, legs, hands, feet, torso, and even his back and neck until he's sore. And it's only day one. He's just starting on the basics. How to punch and how to kick are drilled into his mind, and he works until he gets it perfect. He also learns how to wrap his wrists, knees, and ankles, since joints are usually weaker than muscles, especially in people who've only recently started to work out. Like Izuku.

By the time he has to go home, Izuku feels fulfilled. Dead on his feet and in desperate need of an ice bath, but fulfilled. The people respected him in the gym. They treated him like a kid because he is a kid. They didn't mock him for failing, they didn't treat him like he's worthless. Bart especially did that, claiming that if he's willing to limp home after doing literal hours of training, then he's welcome back whenever. So long as he pays, of course.

The next day is Sunday. Izuku would usually spend it writing notes or doing homework before he started training, but that's long since changed. He wakes up early and immediately stretches because his muscles are sore. Once he's done with that, he jogs to Dagobah beach. There's about half the trash left now, probably because Miruko can carry just about everything there with her Quirk. Izuku's helped a little too, just to get some extra weight training in. But it's mostly her, and if she keeps up the pace the beach will be clean in a few more months.

"Oi, you're late!"

Izuku doesn't flinch, but he does turn around. His teacher who repeatedly claims that she's not his teacher stands with her hands on her hips. A towel is draped over her shoulders, and she's sweating despite the fact that it's early in the morning.

"I did twice my usual work yesterday. I had to take some time to get out of bed." Izuku approaches Miruko. He looks around a bit and sees that there's a coil of rope hooked up to an old pickup truck. "Why can't I be a few minutes behind? I mean, unless you need help moving that truck off the sand."

Miruko snorts. "In your dreams, kid. You could probably put on two hundred kilos, sit in the bed of that, and load up a few hunks of scrap and I'd still be able to pull that thing."

"Sure you would," Izuku says.

"Whatever. I don't gotta prove myself to you, anyway." Miruko walks over to the truck and grabs a water bottle that's sitting on the hood. She takes a drink. "How did your appointment with the fighting gym go?"

"Good," Izuku says. "I can tell that it'll be slow going, but by the time I take the UA entrance exam I'll be ready. Oh, and that thing you told me to say worked."

"Good. Show me what you've learned."

Izuku blinks. "Right now?"

"Yeah right now." Miruko shrugs her towel off and flexes her powerful legs. "Unless you're afraid?"

"I've had one day of training. You've had years. I think it's pretty damn reasonable for me to be scared."

"Well too f*ckin' bad. Square up, green bean!"

Izuku barely has time to side step her first kick, and even then the air pressure generated knocks him off balance. "Were you trying to cave my head in!" he yells, getting up and settling into a stance. Miruko only laughs and rushes him again. This time she leads with a right hook, which Izuku ducks under. He counters with a straight jab into her stomach, but she takes the hit like it's nothing and sweeps his legs. Izuku hits the sand, but doesn't stop moving. He grabs on to one of her legs and tries to pull. He's kicked in the jaw and sent sprawling.

As he stands up, stars dance across his vision. He dodges a kick and retaliates with his own. His leg is grabbed and Miruko forces him into the ground, pinning him in a rather uncomfortable hold.

"You're insane," Izuku says. "There's no way you're normal. Are you a sad*st?"

Miruko laughs and drops the hold. She helps Izuku back up. "Twice a year I am. And that wasn't awful for one day of training."

"It felt pretty awful," Izuku mutters.

"Oh, I'm sure. But you didn't let yourself get destroyed. You countered, you threw a punch. Pretty damn good, I'd say. But not good enough."

"Obviously," Izuku says, tempted to roll his eyes. "I lost. Of course it wasn't good enough."

"You're going to lose your first few—no, first load of fights. That's just how it works. It's how you're fighting that's the problem, not how bad you did."

"I feel like those are the same thing."

"That's because you're an idiot. What are the rules of a fight?"

"No attacking a downed opponent, no eye gouging, no hair pulling, no knees to the head, no—"

"I get the picture," Miruko cuts him off. "But that's wrong."

"But that's what the gym guys said?"

"Yeah, because they fight in organized matches with referees and prize money. You're going through fight villains to save lives. Do you think a criminal is going to care about the no eye gouging rule?"

"No."

"Then you shouldn't either."

"But I'm trying to be a hero," Izuku argues. "Hair pulling and kicking someone when they're down isn't heroic."

"Is it more heroic to win a fight by pulling someone's hair or to lose that fight and risk people being hurt because you refused to fight a little dirty?"

"It's more heroic to win."

"Say that again."

"It's more heroic to win."

"Louder."

"It's more heroic to win!"

"Good! Now come at me again. But this time, treat me like a threat. If you lose, people will get hurt, maybe even die. So do what you gotta do! Fight dirty, don't let me fight you on my terms, and above all, win. Because in a real fight with lives on line, there's only one rule: do everything you can to win."

Izuku looks at Miruko and shifts his feet. He nods, and pulls his fist back to punch. He throws it forward, but before she can grab or block it, he dives to the side and scoops up a handful of sand. He throws it in her face, blinding her. He gets up and charges, driving his shoulder into her gut. They hit the ground, and he decks her across the face before trying for a choke hold. But he's much, much weaker than her, and in two seconds it's him being choked out with his face in the sand.

"f*cking great!" Miruko says, letting go of his neck. "Just like that! People might call you a coward for doing sh*t like that, but they're the cowards for not having the balls to ditch their dignity."

"All Might doesn't have to do stuff like that to win," Izuku coughs and rubs his neck.

"Don't compare yourself to All Might. You can't be him. Or even me. Do what works for you."

"What if I don't want to fight dirty?" Izuku asks.

"Then get ready to get your ass beat." This time, Izuku does roll his eyes. "Don't give me that sh*t. Look at yourself! And I mean really look! Do you see a two meter tall wall of muscle with enough strength to level a mountain? Cause I sure as hell don't!"

"Then what do I do?" Izuku asks, frustrated. "I know I can't be like him, but I still want to! I want to be a great hero people can look up to."

"Then f*cking win. People don't look up to losers. They look up to champions. So be a champion. I don't care if you have to kick men in the balls twenty times or sock a chick in the tit* to do it, and you shouldn't either."

Izuku sighs. "Fine. What now? Do you just keep beating the crap out of me? Because I don't think my mom would be happy if I came home with bruises."

"We get to work is what we do," Miruko says, walking over and helping him stand. "Kid, you ain't got no quirk, no muscle, and no battle sense. There's no way you'll be a hero like the big man. But that's fine. Cause instead of dressing you up in star-spangled underpants, I'm gonna make you f*ckin' mean."

Izuku looks into her eyes and sees fire, burning along with the blinding ferocity of her grin. He matches them with his own.

"Then let's get to work."

Notes:

He's growing up so fast lol. Soon he'll be in UA not taking anyone's sh*t and beating the crap out if his classmates. That'll be fun to write for sure. I hope you enjoyed. Cheers!

Chapter 5

Chapter Text

Izuku wakes up at five thirty am and goes for a run. Miruko had told him before that getting up early wasn't some kind of miracle maker, but it's the only time Izuku has to squeeze his cardio training in between school, lifting with Miruko (who's calling him her student now, finally) and sparring at the gym. The weekends are better, and he gets to spend hours fighting with Bart and the other boys at the gym, and Miruko. But it's Monday, and Izuku happily runs twenty kilometers and is home by seven.

Before, he would've had nightmares about running for so long at such a fast pace. But now, two months before the U.A entrance exam, cardio is his breakfast. His first one, anyways, since he downs a jug of water and a plate of eggs and rice before he gets in the shower.

His mom's a godsend for making his meals. Izuku wouldn't have the time to do as much as he does if it weren't for her. And a few weeks back, the way she looks at him changed. When Izuku would go on about being a hero before, she'd look sad. No matter how hard she would try to hide it, Izuku would find the lack of belief in her eyes. But when he started filling out, and came back covered in bruises from boxing at the gym, her eyes started to sparkle again. It only makes him want to succeed more.

"I was texting Miss Usagiyama the other night," his mom calls as he steps out of the bathroom.

"Oh yeah?" Izuku asks, toweling off his hair and heading for his bedroom. "What about?" He'd given her Miruko's number when she'd asked about who was helping him. Miruko refuses to meet her no matter how much they text. It's kind of funny, really. The number seven hero is afraid of Midoriya Inko to the point where she won't even tell her that she's a top ranked hero.

"Dinner!" his mom says happily. "I'm trying to get her to come over—Bartholomew, too! But they both say they're busy."

"You can't force them, Ma," Izuku says, putting on his school uniform. "They're adults. And they both have full time jobs."

"I know, sweetie, but they both deserve something for helping my baby boy." Izuku hears his mother turn on the sink and start to wash some dishes. "Surely you could convince them to come over for dinner, just once."

Izuku walks out of his bedroom, backpack over one shoulder. "I'll try, but no promises," he says, entering the kitchen. His mom shuts off the sink and walks over.

"That's all I ask," she says, wrapping him up in a tight hug. She pulls back a moment later. "I'm so proud of you."

"I know," Izuku says, backing up a little. "You two me every day."

"Only so you don't forget," his mother explains. "Now get out of here! The last thing I want is for you to be late for school!"

School's okay. He's still Deku to them. Small, week, crying in the corner Deli who has stupid, impossible dreams. They snicker to themselves whenever he walks by. No one sits with him at lunch. Everyone, teachers included, try to make him look like an idiot. But no one outright harasses him. He's not shoved into lockers, no spitballs are launched into his hair, and he never gets an unfair punishment.

"... And that's the basics of what you can expect your High School math courses to look like. A little scary, but it's like it was before when you were learning basic algebra: you're just unlocking new buttons on the calculator. Of course, all of you should memorize what the sine, cosine, and tangent formulas are, but that's a job for summer break." The tall lanky teacher puts down his notes and looks at his watch. "We've got ten minutes left. I'll leave everything up on the board. Feel free to read something or look at your phones if you like."

Instantly, every student at a desk has their cell phone out and open to an app. Technically, they're supposed to have them powered off completely at school, but no one ever pays attention to that rule. Not even Izuku, who pulls his out along with a notebook and a few different colored pens. Hero Analysis for the Future has been replaced. Now, Izuku writes notes, sketches drawings, and doodles in Operational Systems for the Future.

It's basically a collection of different ideas that he thinks would be useful for a Quirkless hero. Costume designs and marketing strategies are swapped for support item concepts. There's a whole page dedicated to what knots to use when, since he fully plans on having rope at all times. The big, flashy heroes who took up most of HAF are relegated to footnotes; lesser known and less powerful heroes are now the star of the show. Izuku wants to emulate Rock Lock's parkour skills, Gunhead's swift takedowns, Snipe's precision, and Sir Nighteye's ability to read a tense situation. But the main section of Izuku's new notebook isn't about heroes. It's about fighting.

Drawings of moves to try out at the gym are common, as are underhanded tactics for him to use if he's in a tight spot. A lot of the martial arts are western inspired, since Izuku's most familiar with Boxing and FreeStyle Wrestling with some basic MMA techniques thrown in. He likes to keep an open mind, though, and has more than a few sketches of Muay Thai moves mixed in beside uppercuts and hooks.

Most of the information is found online. Izuku's Youtube feed is almost completely made up of clips from Martial Arts competitions. It's hard to find new ones, since no one cares much for Quirkless combat anymore, but there's plenty from the twenty-first century and back. Olympic level Wrestling is one of his favorite things to watch. He pays the most attention to the lightweight classes, since he's small himself, and breaks down every fight on its own page.

Izuku watching a particularly daring throw, slowed down to quarter speed so he can watch how both the combatants move, when his phone is knocked out of his hand. "Oh, so—" a person says, stopping when they see it's Izuku they desturbed. They quickly turn back in their seat, not bothering to help him pick up his fallen phone. They even go so far as to kick it away, so they don't have to deal with him reaching near them for it. Izuku sighs and looks over to where his phone slid. Luckily, it shut off when he dropped it. Unluckily, it stopped sliding under Kacchan's seat.

Izuku takes a deep breath and gets up from his spot. He makes sure to close his notebook and slip it into his bag. Then, he walks over, avoiding eye contact. Maybe if he says nothing, Kacchan will ignore him. He kneels down beside Kacchan's desk and reaches for his phone. The other boy isn't reacting. Maybe—

An explosion, small but white-hot burns the back of his hand and chars his phone. Izuku yelps and jumps back, banging his head on the underside of Kacchan's desk. "f*ckin' watch yourself, nerd! If you want your phone back wait till after class!"

Izuku nods and mumbles and apologizes before scampering back to his desk. No one bats an eye, which is usual. He's forced to sit and stare at a wall for the remaining five minutes of class, nursing his burnt hand. It's not so bad, he thinks. A little red and probably bruised but all the skin's intact and there's no blood. He'll go home and ice it for a few minutes before lifting weights.

When the bell finally rings, Izuku rushes out of his seat and over to his phone. Kacchan trips him on the way, and he rams his face into the wall, but he gets his phone in his pocket before anyone can do anything. It's a success in his book.

Standing up, Izuku dusts off his uniform and hurries out the door, keeping his head down and trying to ignore the laughter that follows him. He makes it out of the building and breathes a sigh of relief in the school courtyard.

"Oi, Deku!"

"sh*t," Izuku mumbles, standing up straight and turning around. Kacchan struts up to him, smiling like they're old buddies. The fact that his left palm is smoking down beside his waist and that his other arm is behind his back ruins any hope that he'll be nice for once. "H-hi, Kacchan," Izuku studders, cringing at how weak he sounds. So much for not being a bitch. All it took was for a blond loudmouth walking up to him to flush every ounce of confidence he gained down the drain.

"Don't f*ckin' call me that, dip sh*t," Kacchan snarls, still smiling.

"S—"

"Don't speak unless I ask you to, either," he orders, grabbing the collar of Izuku's uniform and pushing him back. He hits a lamppost and his head bounces off of the metal. Izuku opens his mouth to reply, but he thinks better of it. "Good. Now, what the f*ck is this!?" Kacchan screams, thrusting a notebook in Izuku's face. A very familiar notebook with his handwriting on it.

"I-it's hero stuff," Izuku explains. "I thought it'd be a good idea if I explored other ideas for being a hero! I can't just do nothing but fanboy, you know?"

Kacchan slaps him across the face with his own notebook. "Shut the f*ck up about being a hero! You'll never f*ckin' make it, so throw this sh*t away and forget about it."

"N-no!" Izuku says. "It's my dream!"

"Doesn't f*cking matter," Kacchan says, spitting on the ground. Both of his hands explode, burning Izuku's neck, notebook, and uniform. "I'm sick of your sh*t, Deku." He throws the notebook into a nearby trash can. "Don't try to pick that shut out, you hear?" Izuku whimpers, and Kacchan gives him one last shove into the lamppost before walking off.

Naturally, the first thing Izuku does is pull his notebook out of the trash. It's burned but salvageable. He puts it back in his bag, which has one of the zippers undone. Kacchan must've gotten to it when Izuku was walking down the hall.

"What the f*ck did I tell you!?" Izuku jumps out of his skin, heart skipping three beats. Kacchan appears out of nowhere and lets an explosion rip right in his face. Izuku stumbles back and falls down. He curls up in a ball, ready for a beating. It never comes. Kacchan spits on his shoes and storms off. Izuku cries the whole way home.

As much as he'd like to stay home and feel bad for himself, Izuku can't. He has a commitment. But he doesn't want Miruko to see him like this. His right eyebrow is singed off, and his face and neck are red. He stares at his reflection for a while before digging through his mom's makeup. He draws on an eyebrow, having to try four times to get it right. He applies some powder to his face and neck, trying to make sure it blends with his skin. Then he heads for the beech.

Miruko is waiting for him. She's long since cleaned up Dagobah, and Izuku as a little private training area that only they know about. It's hidden by a few rocks, but it's just big enough for makeshift weights and a chair for her to sit on.

Miruko, Izuku's found, likes to watch people struggle. She'll order him to lift light until failure and then scream at him as his body shakes, and she'll make him max out quite often, just to see how he looks when he's right about to collapse. Izuku doesn't mind since she encourages him the whole time. Not that she'd call it encouragement.

"Arms today, kid," she orders, sitting back with her feet up on a stack of weights. She has her hero costume on and a bottle of water by her side, but she doesn't look the least bit tired.

"How was patrol?" Izuku asks, grabbing a dumbbell and getting ready for curls.

"f*ckin' boring," Miruko says. "I got almost no action today. This area is drying out of villains fast."

"I bet combat isn't the only action you're missing out on," Izuku grunts, the rusty iron of the weights handle digging into his palm.

"The hell does that mean?" Miruko asks, daring him to explain.

"Oh, you know," Izuku says, giving her a once over and making an unimpressed face, "it just be hard for someone like you to pick up guys. Or girls. Not like it'd make a difference for you."

"Ex-f*cking-cuse you," Miruko says, chucking her water bottle at his head. Izuku dunks, but a few drops land in his hair. "I'll have you know that I'm sex on legs."

"More like sass on legs," Izuku mutters.

"I heard that! Miruko reaches for another thing to throw at him but finds nothing. "I can pull anyone one I want! Have you seen my thighs? Or my f*cking abs?"

"I have," Izuku admits. "But I prefer Mount Lady."

"Oh, you're gonna f*cking get it," Miruko says, half laughing as she stands up. Izuku drops his dumbbells and picks up a handful of sand. "That sh*t won't work twice, you know."

"Wanna bet?" Izuku taunts, hefting his sand.

"Sure, cause you're gonna lose!"

Miruko rushes at him, sweeping at his legs with a low kick. Izuku hops back and ducks under a hook before jabbing her in the gut. Miruko punches his chest, but Izuku angles his body so it grazes his shirt.

"Hey look! A distraction!" he says, pointing into the sky. Miruko laughs, and Izuku chucks his sand right into her mouth. She coughs and he punches her in the right breast before tackling her. They grapple on the ground, Izuku quickly losing the upper hand due to Miruko's enhanced strength and better experience. The fight ends with Izuku pinned under Miruko with her hands around his throat.

"A lotta guys would pay to be in this situation, you know."

"I needed an adult," Izuku wheezes.

Miruko snorts and rolls off of him. "Cheeky bastard."

Izuku sits up and gently rubs his neck. She wasn't overly rough, but it still sucks being choked. He pulls his hand away and sees streaks of something tan on his palms. He touches it. It spreads easily. Makeup. His hands move up to his face. His eyebrow is gone, the dark green stuff he used smeared all over his cheek. He looks over to Miruko. She has makeup on her skin, too, much more obvious because she's so much darker than the shade he picked.

His mentor looks over to him, hand held up, palm facing him. "Care to explain why you look like you look like you had a grease fire while making breakfast this morning?"

"No," Izuku says, looking away.

Miruko remains silent for a moment. "Does your mother hurt you?"

"No!" Izuku denies. "She's amazing! She'd never burn me, or, or, or, break my things. She's the perfect mother!."

"But someone would." Izuku doesn't reply. His mouth feels too dry to speak. "What about your dad?" Izuku shakes his head. "Sibling?" Another shake. "Someone at school, then," Miruko settles on. Izuku doesn't move. He hears her lean back and lay on the sand.

"Don't talk if you don't want to talk," Miruko says. "I'm not going to force answers out of you. But, Kid, do you like being treated that way?"

"That's a dumb question."

"I figured you didn't," Miruko continues, unphased. "Have you tried getting it to stop?"

"Yeah."

"Do you fight back?"

Izuku takes a shaky breath. "No," he admits. "I try to do what everyone says to do. Say stop, talk to teachers, avoid him, complain to the principal, don't agitate. But it never works, and everytime I think about throwing a punch I just…" he flops his hands by his side.

"How long has this been going on for?"

"Like ten years."

"Jeez. You've let him walk all over you for that long?"

"I don't let him," Izuku tries.

"You don't fight back, that means you're letting him do this."

"You can't fight Kacchan. Well, you could, but I can't."

"Okay, number one, don't call your bully that. Call him sh*thead, or something else insulting. And number two, why?"

"Why what?"

"Why can't you? I thought you were over feeling inadequate because you're Quirkless."

"He's got a strong Quirk, and he's been winning fights with older kids since the first grade."

"How big is he?"

"A few centimeters taller than me. We weigh about the same, I think."

"Does he fight full grown men and a pro hero daily?"

"No."

"Then you can kick his ass."

"No I can't."

"Yes you can."

"No—"

"Heroes don't let people walk all over them. I said—"

"I heard you. I want to stop him, I really do. But he's been putting me down for so long that I don't think I can stand back up."

"Tough sh*t, you'll have to do it anyways."

"What? That doesn't—"

"A hero's job isn't to think about whether or not they can do something. Their job is to do that thing, no matter what. No hesitation, no complaints. Do or die. Because at the end of your day, it's not about you. It's about the people you protect. So tell me, how the f*ck are you going to stare down the impossible when you're a pro if you can't even stand up to some twerp? Stop letting that kid rule your head and beat his ass into the dirt."

"I want to," Izuku says, tears welling up. "Really, I do. But everytime he grabs me, freeze."

"I can help you with that." Miruko stands and extends a hand. Izuku takes it. "The next time that f*cker comes around and tries to hurt you, this is what you do…"

Chapter 6

Chapter Text

It doesn't take long for Bakugo to harass him again. In fact, the day after Izuku told Miruko about him, Bakugo loudly swipes Izuku's notebook off of his desk. One of his extras snatches it from the floor and tosses it to someone else, and a game of keep away forms. Izuku tries to get it back, but not not as hard as he could. He copied everything into a new one the night before, and the charred old one is a decoy. But he can't do anything here in class. It's too open, and there's not enough people.

Miruko's plan is a simple one, but Izuku's not sure if he can pull it off. Bakugo's strong—stronger than him maybe, since he's apparently been working out too. The plan could fail, and if it does, Izuku will probably be expelled. Actually, even if it works he'll probably be punished severely. But he wants to try. He wants to grow stronger, mentally and emotionally. Because after taking a long, hard look in the mirror, he understands that he can't keep thinking of Bakugo as someone to be admired. Instead, he tries to think of him as an obstacle to overcome.

But first, he has to muster up the guts to go through with the plan and make sure it happens at the right time.

It happens when they're on their way to gym class. Someone had thrown Izuku's decoy notebook in the trash, but he pulled it out once everyone but him had left the room. Once he's walking down the hallway, he opens it up and starts to flip through it. But he's not paying attention to the pages. He keeps an eye out, looking for someone to notice him. Eventually someone shoulder checks him into a locker, and Izuku watches as they push their way up to the front of the mob of students. Moments later, Izuku sees Bakugo shove a younger boy aside and get ready to attack him. A crowd clears, and Izuku tosses his notebook away.

"Nice try, nerd," Bakugo sneers. Izuku can already smell the sweet stench of nitroglycerin in the air. "But I'm not s f*ckin' idiot. I told you to stop with the hero sh*t but you haven't."

"My mother always told me not to listen to idiots," Izuku says calmly. He forces his expression to stay neutral but he has to clench his fists so hard that he can feel his nails digging into his palms to keep from shaking.

"The f*ck did you just say?"

"It's funny that you tell me that I'm not fit to be a hero when you can't even talk to a toddler without making them cry," Izuku continued. "I guess worshipping All Might's strength for all these years made you misunderstand what it means to be a hero."

Bakugo blinks, slack jawed like he can't believe what's happening. He quickly schools his expression into something more angry. "I'm gonna f*ckin' burn you," he snarls. He takes a few steps forward but Izuku holds his ground. "Quirkless filth like you doesn't get to lecture me on being the greatest!" Bakugo raises his right arm high. His hand cracks with orange hot explosions and he brings it down, aiming for the side of Izuku's face. It's so predictable that Miruko would laugh and make him run twenty laps if she saw Izuku do such a thing.

He ducks under the swipe. Bakugo, expecting to meet static flesh, stumbles off balance. Izuku punches him in the face, once, twice. Two cracks echo through the halls as the hits land, and Bakugo jumps back, cupping his nose. Izuku can see tears welling up in his eyes. His opponent is blind.

He punches him in the throat next. Bakugo coughs like he's going to hack up a lung and tries to retaliate with another right hook. Izuku grabs his arm, turns, and flips Bakugo over his shoulder. Bakugo has the sense to detonate both of his hands, forcing Izuku to release him. The other boy tries to sand back up, but Izuku rams his shoulder into his chest, knocking Bakugo into the lockers with a thump. Bakugo wheezes, finding that he's lost the air in his lungs.

Then, Izuku backs up and raises his right arm high above his head like he's going to deck Bakugo across the face. Bakugo flinches and raises his hands to block. But Izuku doesn't throw a right hook. Instead he bends his knees, shifts forward and uppercuts Bakugo. It's perfect form. He generates most of the force with his legs, pushing up on the ground before putting all of his body weight into it. He punches Bakugo so hard his knuckles split open. But that's fine because his old bully is out cold on the ground.

In a moment of sheer contempt, Izuku kicks Bakugo's ribs. It's partly to make sure the boy's actually out, but Izuku admits to himself that it feels good to kick Bakugo when he's down when it used to be him on the other end of the stick. He looks around at the stunned audience. He squares his shoulders and stands tall.

"Anyone else?"

[x]

"This is absolutely disgusting! Never in my years as a school principal has such a thing happened! Ma'am, I know it's terribly impolite to say this, but what the hell have you been teaching your son?"

"What have I been teaching my son? I'm sorry, but you'll have to explain that question further because I just don't understand."

"Your son attacked Bakugo out of spite! We have witnesses that all agree on the fact that Bakugo was teasing Midoriya—all in good fun, mind you—and for no good reason Midoriya started hitting Bakugo with the intent to harm! What have you been teaching your son that makes him think it's okay to do such a thing? Because he certainly didn't learn it here."

"I'm afraid that my son says that something different happened."

"Of course he did. There's now way he'd own up to attacking another boy. Children lie, you know."

"Do you mind if we let him in, then? So he can hear about the evidence?"

"Certainly! Boy, you can come in now! I know you're spying!"

Izuku calmly opens the door of the principal's office and steps inside. His mom is sitting in a cheap chair all prim and proper. Her hair is done up nice and her posture is perfect. But she's not smiling. Others would probably think that she's calm, but Izuku knows that on the inside she's steaming in anger.

Izuku sits down without a word and looks the principal dead in the eye. He doesn't even bother with hiding his anger.

"Bakugo Katsuki and everyone else in that hallway is a liar."

The principal snorts and pushes a folder full of papers across his desk. "And all of these written accounts from students and teachers are lies then, too?"

"Yes," Izuku says, holding firm. The principal laughs.

"Good luck proving that in court."

"Sir, will you be submitting security camera footage for the trail?" Izuku asks causally.

"I… what?"

"You know, the video that shows Bakugo attacking me first?" Izuku explains like he's talking to a child. "The footage from the cameras that the board had installed in all of the hallways, offices, gymnasiums—everywhere that's not a classroom, bathroom, or changing room, really."

"We have dozens of—"

"You have dozens of papers written my middle schoolers and incompetent teachers," Izuku's mother cuts him off. "Children lie, you know. Especially for people they like, and young Bakugo is quite popular. If you don't submit the unedited footage to be used in court, then there's no way you can prove that Izuku attacked first."

"You—"

"It'll have to be settled out of court, or if we or the Bakugo's go through with pressing charges, we'll win," Izuku continues. "Your school will be looked at as incompetent and full of delinquents. You'll lose financial backing and parents will pull their kids once they release that you don't do anything to deal with bullying."

"I'm going to expel you," the principal says. "Even if you win that hypothetical case, you'll have an expulsion on your record for fighting. Good luck getting into any High School with that!"

Izuku's mom sets a piece of paper on the table. "He's transferring to East Musutafu High," his mother says, and the principal snaps up the paper. "Everything's already gone through. Izuku will not be expelled, though Bakugo should be."

"Katsuki has the potential to be an amazing hero," the principal explains.

"Bakugo has the potential to be a massive asshole," Izuku mutters. "Oh wait, he already is one."

"You watch your mouth, boy!" the principal scolds.

"I'd prefer it if you didn't yell at my son for speaking the truth," his mother says. "I've heard a lot about that young man recently. I'm quite surprised something like this didn't happen sooner. And sweetie, please watch your language."

Izuku nods but doesn't mean it one bit. Whatever fear he had of Bakugo and the teachers is gone now, probably because this is the last he'll see of them.

"Bakugo's attitude problems aside—"

"—Is that what you're calling it—?"

"—he is still on track to make it into UA, or failing that, Seiketsu." The principal leans back in his chair, relaxing like he just won the whole argument.

"Izuku also plans on applying to UA," his mom counters. "And all the other major schools, too. Surely he deserves the same treatment for any… attitude issues."

The principal chortles. "You can't be serious."

"We are," Izuku says, sitting up straighter.

"Bakugo has the potential to be a great hero," the principal repeats. "You do not."

"And why's that?" his mother asks. "What makes you able to say something like that? Are you a former pro?"

"Hardly," the principal says, "but anyone logical can understand my line of thinking."

"I'm afraid I don't understand your logic," his mother says. "Explain."

"No."

"Why not?" Izuku asks, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.

"I can't."

Izuku snorts. "Can't or won't?" The principal remains silent. "Say what you want to say, sir. Surely you can excuse me for not understanding your supreme logic."

"You're Quirkless," the principal says stiffly. "Quite frankly, I don't care about it. I know you're not dumber or less evolved than everyone else. But look at the big picture. Bakugo is the next Endeavor. You'll be lucky to end up as a fast food worker."

From the corner of his eye Izuku sees his mother smile; right in front of him, the principal shivers. She pulls her phone out of her purse. The screen shows that there's an ongoing call, one on speakerphone. The contact's name is Hisashi.

"Did you hear that, honey?"

"Every last word. I'll make sure it's all sent to our lawyer." Izuku perks up at his father's voice. It's the first he's heard it in… ever, probably. "If we want, this will all be open and shut. I'd argue it myself if it weren't for personal bias laws or my place of work."

"I—you—you can't do that!" the principal screams. He stands up and tries to reach for the phone. Izuku gets between him and his mother.

"You can," his father says. "Police record people when they're not aware all the time. So do heroes."

"Izuku, why don't you step outside," his mother says, holding out her phone. Izuku looks at the phone and then to his mother. She nods.

Outside the office, Izuku leans against a wall and presses the phone to his ear. "Um… hi."

"You sound just like my younger brother."

"Huh?"

"Aki. Your uncle. You've never met him." His father sighs. "Look, I know you probably don't want to talk about stuff like that. I just… I wish I could be a good father."

"Me too," Izuku without thinking. His father laughs.

"Sheesh, that was a cold one. I guess it's not a shock that you're not talking after your mother."

"I am?"

"Oh yeah," his father says. "Quite sassy, that one. She can be, at least. It's a good thing, too. You can't go through life letting people walk over you. It took me too long to figure it out."

"... Yeah," Izuku says, relating to it all too much.

"Do you know why I'm not around?" his father asks.

"Work," Izuku says bitterly.

"Yep. I work so your mom doesn't have to. And so you won't have to, either."

"What?"

"Who do you think is getting all of my money when I'm gone?" his father asks rhetorically. "You, kid. You. But you don't want to get by on daddy's money, do you?"

"No."

"Good. I like that. Bust your ass being a hero. Save lives, earn a living. Not that it matters what I like."

"It does," Izuku says weakly.

"It don't." His father sighs again, heavy and disappointed. "I left you. It was to give you a good life, yeah, but I'm not your dad. Not really. I'm sorry for that."

"It's… I'm okay with it," Izuku says. "I'm… happy without you."

"Good," his father says. "You should be. Do you at least have role models other than your mom?"

"Yeah," Izuku says, thinking of Miruko and Bart and the guys at the gym.

"Good. You learn from them. Become a strong man. Be a hero."

"I will."

"And when I get back, I want to get to know you for real. If that's okay, at least."

"I'd like that too."

"I think—"

"One last thing," Izuku says, sensing that their conversion is about over.

"What is it, kid?"

"If you're rich, why do Mom and I live in a tiny apartment?"

"Your mother hates wasting money. She pawned the first wedding dress I bought her because she thought it was a total waste. Before the wedding, mind you, so we had to get her a new one that wasn't too extra."

"Ah."

"Yup."

[x]

"How'd it go," Miruko asks the second he steps on the beach.

"I broke his nose and bullied the school into giving me money to settle out of court."

"Nice. Did he cry?"

"Nah," Izuku says. "But only because I knocked him out."

Miruko whistles. "sh*t, man, did you spit on him too?"

"I thought about it," Izuku admits, "but I didn't think it was worth it, y'know?"

"Yeah. Did you have to deal with the sh*t-stain's parents?"

"Nope. Though his mom apparently wanted to know if he was asking for it."

"Who'd she ask that?"

"My mom, who said yes right to her face."

"Interesting," Miruko says, looking at her nails. "Pray tell, is Midoriya Inko single?"

Izuku blinks. "She's married. To my father."

"Yeah but." Miruko wiggles her eyebrows.

Izuku sighs and picks up a handful of sand. "I'm going to make sure this gets in your hair and then I'm going to punch you in the mouth. Hard."

"f*ckin' bring it, great bean! Once I kick your ass we're going to your place for dinner and I'm gonna get cozy with your mama!"

"Weren't you afraid of her?"

"I still am, but now it's for a good reason!"

Izuku gets his ass kicked, but Miruko still doesn't have the courage to eat dinner at his apartment. His smug look doesn't go away for a week.

Chapter 7

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

It's Izuku's first day of school but he treats it like a normal day. He runs, he showers, he eats breakfast, he talks with his mom, and he goes over his plans for the day. The only differences are that his uniform is a grey blazer with black slacks and a red tie and his school is a longer train ride away. He starts putting everything on earlier because of that, and quickly finds that the uniform is the wrong size.

The pants are too big and want to sag, forcing him to tighten his belt more than usual. The white button down and blazer, however, are too small. They just won't button over his chest, which isn't even that big. The sleeves are too short, ridding up on his forearms, and the tie is way too small.

"This is ridiculous," Izuku mutters, trying to force one of the buttons through it's hole. He manages the get it in and has a brief moment of cheer. Then the button snaps and bounces off of his mirror. Izuku takes a heavy sigh and heads to his mother. "My uniform's all wrong," he says, holding up an arm. His mother looks up from her magazine frowns.

"I gave them the same measurements as the last one," she says, standing up and plucking his tie from his hands. "Maybe they were out of the right sizes? Your transfer was on short notice."

"They would've said something," Izuku says, watching his mother work the tie into a knot. "An email maybe, or at ordination a few days ago."

"They didn't," his mother grumbles, finishing the knot. She slides it up and takes a step back. She frowns. "It looks awful."

Izuku looks down and winces. "Yeah," he agrees. It's maybe five or six centimeters long and half that wide. It looks like a tie for a child on him. "I'll talk to the principal about it?"

"I'll send an email too," his mother says. "But for now just do your best. If anyone gives you trouble, just explain. Got it?"

"Got it."

"Good." His mother leans in and pecks him on the cheek. "I'm proud of you, Izuku. A month and a half. You can do it."

Izuku smiles. "Love you too, Mom."

East Musutafu Junior High is a large school. There's three floors, two basem*nt levels, a track, a pool, and a student body in the thousands. If he were worried about fitting in, Izuku probably would've gone with something smaller. But he'll only be there for six weeks, and friends can wait until U.A. Or after U.A, since he's part of a rather disliked minority.

He still plans on making a good impression, though. The last thing he wants is to deal with another Bakugo. Or anyone from his old school, really. Not that his wants mean anything. He'll probably be made fun of anyway, which he's accepted. He just hopes it's not too much to ask for some common decency. But if his uniform is anything to go off of, it probably is.

Izuku jogs up the steps of the massive school and walks through the glass doors. He checks in at the front office and double checks his room number. The secretary points him in the right direction and Izuku heads for Classroom 3-G. When he gets there he finds that it's empty. No teacher, no students. He was told that there's no assigned seats, so he carefully picks the right one for him. The back row right by the window becomes his temporary home. He slides his backpack under his seat and pulls out his notebook. He starts to go over different kinds of throws.

Gradually, people start to trickle in. Most barely give him more than a second glance, but one bit takes one look at him and glares. He practically stomps over to Izuku's desk and slams his meaty hands over his notes. Izuku calmly pulls his things away as the boy begins to speak.

"You're in my spot."

"I don't see your name on it."

"I always sit there."

"Not today you don't."

"Says who? Some new punk with a sh*tty tie?"

"My tie is the same as yours, isn't it?"

Someone snickers and the boy flushes. He angrily sits down next to Izuku and starts to rummage through hsu bag. Probably for something to make spitballs out of. He's off to a great start.

The rest of the class fills in after that. When the bell finally rings, the teacher walks in. She's a rather small and thin woman with bubblegum pink hair done up in a tight bun. She accepts the class's greeting and orders them to sit.

"We have a new student here today," she says. "Midoriya, could you stand?"

Izuku gets up from his seat and puts his hands in his pockets. It's half to keep his pants from sagging even more and half to hide how nervous he is, which isn't much but he doesn't exactly want to be seen as weak.

"Hi. I'm Midoriya Izuku. I'm fifteen and I transferred here from Aldara. Thank you for having me." He bows politely and waits for permission to sit.

"What kind of career options are you looking into?" the teacher asks.

"Heroics," Izuku says bluntly.

"Do you have any hobbies?"

"Working out. Boxing."

The teacher blinks as though she's never dealt with an overly blunt teenager before. "Alright. Thank you for talking about yourself, Midoriya. You may sit. Everyone, today you'll be going over the sine, cosine…" Izuku leans back in his chair and sighs. Great. The first day of school is going to be full of review.

He makes it to lunch without anything bad happening. It should feel like a miracle, but Izuku desperately wanted to keep his head down until the end of the semester. He does his best to keep his distance, being blunt and of few words. People take it at face value and keep away. Or they ask about his Quirk and leave him alone when they hear that he doesn't have one. Fine—good, even. No bullies, no distractions. He's cool with it. Then he sees a first year being harassed by a trio of third year girls and his blood gets hot.

He gives it a few chances. First he looks around for teachers. There's only one and he doesn't seem to care. None of the other students do either. Izuku takes a deep breath and counts down from three.

Three. The first year's lunch tray slams into the ground.

Two. One of the girls yanks the first year's hair causing them to scream in pain.

One. Another girl calls the first year an awful slur.

Action. Izuku walks over to the girls, clenching his fists. He sees Bakugo among them, and feels the urge to take a swing. But he can't throw the first punch. That would get him in deep trouble. So he keeps calm.

"Lay off of them," Izuku says loudly. The girls turn to look at him and glares. The first year freezes, unsure if it's safe to get away.

"Or what?" one of the girls asks. "You'll tattle?"

"No," Izuku says. "But I'll distract you enough for them to get away." The girls look behind them to see that the first year has disappeared along with their lunch.

"Great," one of the girls mutters. "Just great! You've chased away our fun!"

"Boohoo," Izuku says. "I'm sorry for stopping you from enjoying someone else's suffering."

"Jackass," another swears. "Who do you think you are? Butting in and ruining everything?"

"A hero."

That seems to set them off, because one of the girls lunges at him. Izuku calmly sidesteps and trips her with his foot. She lands flat on her face. She gets back up and shoves him. Izuku doesn't budge. She takes a swing and Izuku ducks. He throws a punch of his own, right at her chin. It lands and hits the ground, out cold.

And that's how Izuku winds up with three hours of cleaning duty on his first day of school. It's not really a punishment since the girls who were bullying the first year are given suspensions. Izuku's still surprised, though. People actually came forward and said that the girl attacked first and that she was harassing another kid. The only reason Izuku has to mop floors is to make the parents feel better.

It has the downside of making people think he's a delinquent, though. By the end of the day, Izuku can hear the whispers in the halls. They keep their distance and try to sneak glances at his hands, looking for evidence to prove that he did, in fact, knock a girl out in one hit. Someone even calls him One Punch Boy before being called an idiot because that's a stupid name. Izuku gets a chuckle out of it.

"Hey, you!" Izuku looks up from his bucket of soapy water to see a girl marching up to him. She's holding a broom and her green hair sways from side to side. "You're that dude who knocked that bitch out at lunch, right?"

Izuku blinks. "Yeah?"

"Awesome." She leans the broom on the wall and slips into a fighting stance. She throws a few punches at the air. "How the hell do you knock someone out in one hit?" she asks. "Cause I know how to fight, but not anything as badass as that."

"You have to put your legs into it," Izuku explains. "They're the biggest muscles. I kind of hop when I want to do it because I push on the ground so hard."

"Cool! Like this?" The girl does a rough approximation of the move Izuku used to knock Bakugo out.

"Close enough."

"Nice. Is it true that you wanna be a hero?" The girl leans on the wall beside her broom and crosses her arms.

"Yes," Izuku says. The girl smiles, her teeth long and pointed like an alligator's.

"I have a proposition for you."

"No."

"Oh, don't play hard to get! You haven't even listend to what I have to say! I wanna be a hero too! If we work together, we'll have a better shot."

"I already have plenty of help, thank you."

"Okay, but a little more wouldn't hurt, right? You'd get a sparring partner out of it, and I have a really cool Quirk!"

"Not interested."

"I'm taking the recommended exam for UA at the end of the week."

Izuku stills and looks at the girl. It's hard to tell with her uniform, but she looks fit. The small amount of skin he can see between the bottom of her skirt and the top of her socks is toned and lean. She carries herself well, on the balls of her feet and with loose confidence. She's clearly a fighter.

"I knew that'd get ya," she says, grinning. She takes a couple more steps and loops an arm around his shoulders like they're old friends. She pokes his chest a few times. "See, we're both certified badasses, and certified badasses need to stick together. Why don't you agree to my little proposition? It's for mutual benefit. I get stronger, you get stronger—it'll be awesome!"

"I'm Quirkless."

"I don't give a sh*t!"

"I've only been training for eight or so months."

"I don't give a sh*t!"

Izuku sighs, not seeing anything wrong with it. "Fine. I'm Midoriya. What's your name?"

The girl smiles, her pointy teeth almost making her seem predatory. "Tokage. Tokage Setsuna."

[x]

"I met someone," Izuku says, carefully working through his second set of pushups as Miruko flips through a paperback.

"Be more specific," she orders. "Like a date? A friend? A fine woman that looks suspiciously like your mother but doesn't have an asshole for a teenage son?"

Izuku chuckles but keeps his focus on his pushups. "No, I met someone like you."

"So smart, compassionate, strong, confident, and good looking?" Miruko asks.

"No, a pain in the ass."

Miruko roars with laughter, chucking her novel into the sand. "Good one! Do another set of pushups or I'll tell your mother that you hit a girl in school today."

"She probably already knows," Izuku says. "There's no reason why the school wouldn't call her. And by tell I assume you mean text. Threatening to tell my mother won't work until you actually meet her."

"Smartass," Miruko mutters. "What are you even going to do with this person you met?"

"Spar," Izuku says. "I need to fight against someone with a Quirk that's not a mutation. And she's taking the UA recommendation exam so I could probably learn a thing or two from her."

"Good thing," Miruko says. "Sticking to one thing is harmful in the long run. Get a couple fights in with her before you start applying to schools. Where are you guys gonna fight?"

"Here," Izuku says, done with his pushups. He stands and stretches his muscles.

"Here. At the beach."

"Yup."

"When?"

Izuku looks down at his wrist which does not have a watch on it. "Any second now."

"And you didn't tell me."

"Nope."

"Bastard."

Tokage takes Miruko's presence quite well for someone who didn't have a clue about it. She does ask for an autograph, though, which she gets. After that Izuku and Tokage spar until the sun goes down. Izuku never wins, mostly because her Quirk is amazingly strong and she has a good grip on it. But each time he puts up a better fight and inches closer to victory. By the end of the day they're both exhausted, sweaty, and smiling.

The exam looms on the horizon, and Izuku looks it in the eye. He will be ready.

Notes:

Izuku needs a friend. Miruko can't be with him all the time which would limit the banter and character interactions. So Setsuna gets to be there. There's not particular reason for it to be her. It could just as easily be Kirishima or Jiro. I just dig her character design and style. Also I need more snark. Cheers!

Chapter 8

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Let's go! One for round!"

Izuku takes a ragged breath and wipes the sweat from his brow with the hem of his shirt. It does little since the cloth is completely soaked. Damn Bart for cranking the heat up at a time like this.

"I'm ready," he says, voice strong despite his exhausted muscles. His opponent, who's a much bigger man with a snake tattoo on his left arm, raises his fists. Izuku does the same.

He ducks under a swipe and throws a few jabs at the man's ribs. He spins to avoid being grabbed and kicks the man in the knee. He's rewarded with a grunt of pain and presses the attack. An uppercut. Two hooks, one to each side of the waist. A knee to the thigh. He has to keep the momentum up. It's the only way for him to win when his opponent can soak up his hits.

Izuku tries to hit the man's sternum with his elbow, but his opponent has had enough. The man pivots so he's perpendicular with Izuku, lowers his shoulder, and drives. Izuku hits the mat and scrambles to get up. He's kicked in the chest, Sparta style. In the blink of an eye he's in a hold, unable to escape. He taps out.

"Good work, you two," Bart says, tossing them both water bottles. "Midoriya, you got too greedy. Don't get caught up in the offensive. Land a few good hits and get the f*ck out of there and wait for another opening. You're a goddamn cardio bunny, you'll outlast most of the guys here."

Izuku chuckles at the bunny comment and takes the criticism easily. "Thanks."

Bart nods his head. "And Yu, my guy. Don't let him do that sh*t. You took way too long to stop him. He shouldn't've gotten that many hits in!"

Yu leans against the ropes of the ring. "I wasn't confident in my ability to lay him out right away. I needed a second to plan and get ready."

"Midoriya's f*cking tiny," Bart swears, causing Izuku to snort. "Deck him across the face—sh*t, deck him anywhere and he'll go flying. Just don't give the kid a concussion. He pays me good money."

"Yu, you're good," Izuku says, obviously joking. "Just let me put in the work. You counter when you feel ready."

"Little sh*t." Bart takes a lazy swipe at his head from the other side of the ropes. "Quit sabotaging your competition."

"But how else am I supposed to win?" Izuku asks. He gestures to Yu, who's toweling off his chest which is gleaming with sweat. "He weighs like a hundred kilos more than me."

"I don't give a sh*t just as long as it's all fair and I'm the ring," Bart says, standing up straight. "You're the one who's trying to go pro. Figure out a way to do it without your fancy tricks. 'Else you'll get curb stomped on your first patrol." Izuku can't think of a good argument so like any normal teenager, he rolls his eyes. "Good lord you're a piece of work! Go run a few laps and come back to me when you're less moody."

Izuku doesn't complain even though he's far from moody. He respects Bart and his choice of fighting style, and he's learned so much from his time at the gym. But the live fights there aren't good for much compared to what he can get from Miruko and Tokage. At the gym he has to follow the basic rules and keep his mouth shut. At the beach he can cut loose and insult, taunt, and fight as dirty as he likes. He loves the gym and will keep going to it, but he'd rather fight on his own terms and there's nothing wrong with that.

He finishes his laps—which are around the block because Bart refuses to buy a treadmill or make an actual running area in the gym—and heads back in. He spars a few times, works on a throw with someone his size, and talks strategy with a few of the guys. Then he goes home, showers, eats, and sleeps.

When he wakes up he stares at the ceiling. He's been waiting ten months for this. Even longer, technically, but he doesn't like to count the time before he met Miruko because he wasn't really preparing for it. But no matter how long he lays there and thinks it over, the U.A entrance exam is today, and he has to be ready.

The first thing he does is drink some water and set his clothes out. He wants to be both light and warm in the cool February air so he decides on track pants, a tank top, and a light zip-up hoodie. Then he eats breakfast with his mom. They're both silent, the stress of the morning forcing them into an unspoken agreement. Then he gets dressed and makes sure that he has everything in order. His bag is packed, he has his ID, he's got a snack for later. He's ready. But he's jittery. He needs his run.

He goes all the way to the beach, fully aware that he should be conserving as much energy as possible. A light jog won't hurt, he figures. He needs to warm up anyways, and he can't feel nervous during the written parts of the test, so he keeps running.

He makes it there well before he has to catch a train to U.A. The sand is pristine and white, and the waves are a cold grey. It's winter and yet Dagobah looks beautiful. Miruko really put in a lot of work. The headlines hadn't shut up about it for weeks, and people spent days sunbathing all summer. But one spot remains private. A wall of rock guards a section of the beach, impassible unless one knows which rocks to step on. Izuku knows. He's the one who figured it out while Miruko and Tokage used their Quirks to get over.

"He's probably sleeping, that lazy ass."

"Nah, he's doing pushups in his room, trying to keep warm. He'll probably start doing sit ups in-between the written tests."

Izuku stops short of the sand and leans against a rock. Miruko and Tokage watch the waves crash onto the beach, both dressed warmly. Uneven and overturned sand shows that they'd gone a few rounds without him. Izuku clears his throat.

"Speak of the devil and he shall appear," he says, walking up to the beach. Miruko's ear twitches to him and Tokage detaches her head and intentionally rams it into his knee.

"Who the f*ck taught you to be so dramatic?" Miruko says, not bothering to turn around.

"Look in the mirror. You'll see her ugly mug," Izuku says, kicking Tokage's head away as she laughs.

"Good one!" Tokage catches her head with one hand and rolls it down her arms and over her shoulders. She flicks it up with her other arm and it lands on her neck. "I remember the insults I came up with in elementary school, too."

"It's impressive how much you've regressed since then," Izuku bites back. He joins them in looking out to sea. "Really, you're a freak of nature. Have you considered running away and joining the circus? Or maybe a traveling science exhibit?"

Tokage smiles, all teeth. "Yeesh, right for the throat, huh? You kiss that mother with that foul mouth of yours?"

"No, but I kiss yours."

"My mom's f*cking ugly."

"Did I s—"

"Alright, break it up you sh*ts," Miruko says. Izuku can hear the exasperation in her voice. "You'll talk sh*t for hours and won't even start throwing punches until noon. And we don't exactly have time for that, do we?"

"I've got a few hours to kill," Tokage says, crossing her arms. "I could probably skip school until March and do whatever. I got into UA so that gives me the right to be a bum, right?"

Miruko snorts. "Hell no. They'll probably revoke your acceptance letter. For all the sh*t Shieketsu gets for being uptight, UA takes the cake for student discipline."

"Meh." Tokage shrugs. "I've already taken my finals. They're just trying to cram for High School at this point, which I don't need."

"If she doesn't make it in after getting accepted can I laugh at her?" Izuku slips his hands into his pockets. "Because that'd be really funny."

Miruko raises an eyebrow "You're asking permission?"

"It's more of a warning," Izuku admits.

"Speaking of not getting into UA," Tokage cuts in. "Midoriya, you'd better f*cking pass."

"I will, calm down," Izuku says. "Not like I've been working hard for it all year or anything."

"I know. But you better make it in because I am not going to go through school without someone who gets me."

Izuku clutches his heart, a fake watery smile on his face. "Tokage… I love you too."

"You f*cking bastard," Tokage laughs. "Like you'd know if someone was into you even if they said it outright."

"I'll have you know that I have very good examples of attraction in my life," Izuku says, hands on his hips.

"You say that quite confidently for someone right by the woman who wants to get with his mom," Miruko observes.

"I'm over that," Izuku declares. "She's married and would never cheat on my father."

"I don't see a ring on her finger."

"That's not even a thing here! They did the sake thing! And you haven't even seen my mother!"

"And yet I still know that she doesn't wear a wedding ring; your argument is invalid."

"Miruko has a type," Tokage says before Izuku can get a word in. "And that type is spelled M-I-L—" Izuku slams his palm over her mouth.

"Do not go there. Don't you f*cking dare." Tokage wiggles her eyebrows and then licks his hand. Izuku swears and wipes the spit off on her hair.

"Ack! You bitch!" Tokage yells, running her hands through her green locks.

"I'm the bitch?" Izuku laughs. "You're the one who licked my hand like a dog!"

"You shouldn't have put it there if you didn't want it to happen."

"What kind of logic is that!?"

"The funny kind," Miruko snickers. "But really, calm down. Kid, what time do you have to be at UA?"

Izuku checks his phone. "In, like, an hour."

Miruko nods and sets a calloused hand on his shoulder. "You better f*cking make it in."

Izuku looks away, suddenly fascinated in the waves. "This again? There's a million other hero schools in Japan. It's not a big deal."

"If you don't you'll make me look bad in front of Tokage," Miruko says.

"That's a pretty good piece of motivation, coach." Izuku looks back at her, faking indifference. "Anything else?"

"Yeah." Miruko raises a fist and roughly noogies his hair. "It's been a damn treat watching you grow. Now go out there and strut your stuff."

Izuku spends the last five minutes on the beach having his hair played with. He glares and pretends he doesn't like it even though he does, very much.

Notes:

Just something small and quick before the entrance exam, which should be action packed. If you haven't noticed or didn't know, this fic alternates with my other one. I usually get a chapter out the day after I post for 365. I hope you enjoyed. Cheers!

Chapter 9

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Izuku planned on taking a train close to his house to get to U.A but that was before his impulsive run to the beach. Now he sits on a crowded train that will stop a block away from the school. It's convenient and easy, and for that reason it's absolutely packed. He's lucky enough to get an actual seat, but he's pressed right up against a small girl with brown hair and a beefy man in a suit. Then the train stops and the man gets off. Izuku thinks he might be in for some relief. Then Bakugo f*cking Katsuki walks on.

Green meets red as they lock eyes, and a silent power struggle forms. There's only two seats now that someone else has gotten off. One to Izuku's right and one to the brown haired girl's left. Bakugo tilts his chin and sneers. Izuku sits up straight and co*cks his head to the side. Bakugo's nose is crooked. Izuku smirks and rubs his knuckles with his thumb. Bakugo stiffens before confidently marching over. He glares at Izuku as he sits down next to the brown haired girl.

They both sit ramrod straight as the train starts to move, trying to glare at each other while looking forward. Izuku can feel his adrenaline kick in and his heart rate picks up. His body wants to move. It wants to shift and get ready to throw a punch. But he can't do that on a crowded train. The poor girl next to him looks like she wants to bolt from how tense he and Bakugo are around each other. He settles on taping his foot to the beat of a silent song. He'd much rather be pacing back and forth or doing some kind of exercise, but it'll have to do for now.

On the other side of the girl, Bakugo rubs his hands together, and Izuku smells nitroglycerin. Not a lot; just enough for him to know that Bakugo is just as on edge as he is. That's a good thing. It means he sees him as a threat. Not wanting to be outdone, Izuku rests the backs of his palms on his legs. Slowly, he clenches his hands into fists and then relaxes them. It's a little barbaric to do this, really.

Asserting strength and trying to get a potential enemy to back off is something that they show in nature documentaries. But Izuku can't bring himself to care. Not when it's Bakugo he's dealing with.

When the train finally arrives at U.A, the brown haired girl practically runs out. Bakugo and Izuku remain seated, locked in some kind of staring contest. They stand at the same time and get off the train at the same time. Izuku doesn't want to turn his back to Bakugo or leave him in a blind spot, and the feeling is definitely mutual because they don't separate. They go through the same security checkpoint, wait in the same room, and follow the same guide to the testing area.

They're in the same room for the written tests. Izuku can feel the anger radiating off if Bakugo when they find out, Izuku's pretty annoyed too. Now he has to watch his back while taking a really hard test. But somehow it goes by quickly. He and Bakugo are probably the top two scorers in the room with how easily they blaze through everything while the other people visibly struggle.

When the written tests are over there's lunch. Izuku eats alone, far away from Bakugo. Out of sight should mean out of mind, be he just knows that he'll have a bout of rotten luck and run into the bastard again.

He's proven right when he has to sit next to him during the practical exam orientation. Present Mic puts on a good speech that no one responds to, and Izuku has to keep an eye on both him and the powderkeg to his right. He catches a glimpse of Bakugo's exam sheet and sees that they're in the same area. Great. The day just keeps getting better.

The bus ride to the exam ground is just like the train ride, only now there's thirty people around them and it's possible to stand up. The extra space doesn't stop them from glaring, though. The bus ride is entirely silent and no one seems willing to break it. All eyes are focused on him and Bakugo like they're waiting for something to explode. In all fairness, they're partly right. Something is about to explode.

When the bus stops, Izuku and Bakugo push their way to the front of the crowd. Both of them wordlessly stand just behind the starting line and look into the expanse of the fake city. There's a faint breeze from behind that carries the whispers of the people behind them. Up above, an intercom crackles to life.

"Hello UA hero applicants!" a voice Izuku recognizes says. "Today, you will all be battling robots! Try not to get hurt, okay? Otherwise I might have to come down there and pick you up." The way Midnight says that makes it seem like it's a good thing. A few people behind him chuckle nervously. Izuku pays it no mind. He's heard worse from Miruko and Tokage. "Before we begin we need to have some ground rules. Rule one: no attacking other students. Rule two: stop when the time is up. Rule three: there are no other rules. Ready? Go!"

Everyone is caught off guard. They murmur and look around, trying to figure out if Midnight is kidding. But Izuku doesn't. He lunges to the side to avoid Bakugo's explosions and starts to sprint down the street in front of him. He turns a corner just as Midnight tells everyone else that it's okay to go.

A few meters away from him, Izuku sees a blotch of green move. It turns around and he gets a look at it's glowing red eyes. The two pointer raises it's stinger appendage and the barrel of a gun begins to glow. Izuku keeps charging. Right when the round is about to go off, he dives and rolls to the side. The pavement behind him cracks. He gets back up and closes the distance, reaching for his jacket pocket.

There's a rather obscure law left over from the early days of Quirks. Not many people are aware that there were hate crimes so extensive and horrible in nature that people refused to leave their house out of fear of being attacked. The government didn't like that so they legalized using Quirks to defend oneself. But there was an uproar among the Quirkless, so the government gave them protection too.

Izuku rolls under the robot, the device in his hand cracking with electricity. He slams the stun gun into the underbelly of the machine. He dashes away as the thing shorts out and collapses into a smoking heap. He looks at his tool.

"Not bad." He has to crank the power level up all the way and ten percent of the batter is gone already, but it should get him a few points. But he can't stay still for long. He's on a time crunch.

As he runs, Izuku keeps an ear out. He can pick up Bakugo's explosions and the sound of fighting. He has to stay away from other people and from low value robots. So he runs until he hears loud mechanical whirring and hangs a left.

A three pointer and a one pointer greet him. He goes for the one pointier first, baiting out shots from both robots from a safe range before closing. He lets his stun gun rip and then uses the one pointer as cover to avoid a shot from the bigger threat. Capitalizing on the reload time, Izuku charges again. Climbs on top of the three pointer and fires his gun right into the neck of the thing before getting off. It doesn't die.

"sh*t!" Izuku is forced to leave his gun as he avoids the machine. They try to charge at him but some of the circuits must be fried because the thing can't walk straight. It shoots just fine, though, because he has to duck a couple of shots.

He hears noise from behind. He risks a glance back. It's another robot. sh*t. He dives out of the way of the shot from the three pointer and then watches in disbelief as the blast hits the two pointer. The smaller robot collapses. A lightbulb shines over Izuku's head.

A minute later he's sprinting away from a horde of ten robots. They can't fire well on the move so he doesn't have to worry about dodging. He leads them all the way to the damaged three pointer and stops between the two sides of dangerous machinery. Then he does something both very stupid and very brave. He plays dodgeball.

Somehow, he doesn't suffer a direct hit. The robots all fire like mad but they all hit each other, not the insane green haired kid between them. The three pointers wipe out the one and two point robots before they start to wear down each other. The sound of gunfire hitting solid steel rings in his ears beside the rushing of blood. Izuku's reflexes are pushed to their limit as he dives, rolls, ducks, and spins out of the way. Soon, only the crippled three pointer remains, battle damaged and stationary, but still able to fight. Izuku leaves to find more robots.

He returns with more than before, but also to a new sight. Someone is trying to get close enough to the damaged three pointer, but the thing is too accurate for them to close in, even when their skin is made of steel. Izuku calls out a warning as he charges, the sight of the other boy's shocked face burned into his memory as what feels like an army surrounds them.

"What in the hell!?"

"Duck!" Izuku screams, tackling the kid and laying him into the ground. A volley of fire comes from behind, knocking out the three pointer. Izuku rushes to grab his taser and the boy gets up, still gleaming with metal.

"How—" a shot hits him in the back of the head "—the—" one to the knee "—f*ck—" one right to his ass "—are alive!" The boy screams in rage and spins to charge the robots. He tanks five more hits. Izuku watches and then looks at his taser.

"Well, since he's right there..."

The steel boy makes for an excellent distraction. Izuku uses up the rest of the battery in his taser to knock out a few more robots. Then, since he knows he needs more points, he picks up a hunk of metal from one of the dead ones and uses it to hack through a few more. The whole while the other boy screams, absorbing the damage and knocking a few out on his own.

When the crowd is thinned out completely, Izuku drops his improvised weapon. The other boy saggers, kicking aside bits of dead robots and groaning in exhaustion. His shirt is utterly shredded and there's a few nasty looking bruises on his chest.

Even though it's a test, Izuku can't leave him here. He might get hurt. So he stands guard. A few more bots come by, but they're all one pointers that fall easily. It's almost relaxing, really. Izuku's pretty sure he has enough points, but a few more wouldn't hurt. He starts to walk away from the boy, but then the ground shakes.

"Did you kiddos forget about the zero pointer?" Midnight's voice sounds through the city as the street Izuku is on starts to open up about a hundred meters away from him. "Well, if you did here's a reminder! Don't bother with trying to kill this thing because unless you're All Might, it's impossible! Run and hide instead!"

Izuku's stomach drops as an absolute monstrosity rises from the earth. The machine is built for war, with beady red eyes, guns, rocket launchers, and the fact that it's ten f*cking stories tall.

He has to run. There's no way he can survive if he doesn't. He starts to take off, but then the boy from earlier groans. Izuku looks back and sees that he's trying to crawl away. His body moves before he can think.

The zero pointer gradually gets closer to them as he runs. With every step the thing takes, the shaking of the earth grows stronger. Izuku's muscles scream in pain and his lungs beg him to stop. But he can't. There's a person on his shoulders, dead tired and helpless. He needs to get them out of here now. But he doesn't have to be happy about it.

"Can you run on your own?"

"Heh… heh, nope! I'm totally gassed!"

"Have you considered doing more cardio?"

"Cardio kills gains!"

"Oh my god, I hate you."

"No you don't! You're saving me!"

"I could drop you."

"But you won't."

"It would save me."

"But not me!"

The robot takes another step, so close the impact sends him flying into the air. He lands on his stomach, feels his ribs crack, and his passenger cries out in pain. Izuku gets back up.

"I've got you," he says, looping the boy's arm around his shoulders. He doesn't have the strength or health to carry him anymore, that much he knows. "C'mon, let's go!"

"I should've had more iron this morning," the boy says, much less cheerful. "I had more juice, maybe I could've fought that thing."

"Don't flatter yourself," Izuku grunts. "You got thrashed by the regular bots. That thing is huge."

"Heh, yeah…" the boy casts a nervous glance over his shoulder. He swallows. "Do… do you think that thing can kill us?"

Another step lands, even closer this time. Somehow they stay on their feet. Izuku tries to pick up the pace. "No," he says, but he's not sure if himself. "They can't. They'd be out of business if they did."

But it's a small comfort when the thing's foot is right above their heads. It comes down in slow motion, and Izuku tackles the boy again. He covers his body with his own. Deep down he knows it won't do anything, but his instincts scream at him to help. He closes his eyes tight as the world darkens. Death never comes.

"And that's the end of the test! Please stay put and wait for medical attention if you need it!"

"f*ck that," Izuku says, rolling off the other boy, who laughs.

"Here, here. Drag me outta here if you can, my guy. It's a little scary being under a massive boot…"

They lay in the street together, looking up at the sky. "That was insane," Izuku says.

"Yep. And so were you. What's your name, by the way? Mines Tesutesu Tesutesu." Izuku blinks. "Yeah, I know it's awful. But what's your name?"

"Midoriya Izuku."

[x]

The letter comes a week later. Izuku watches it alone in his room.

"... You got thirty five villain points, which is just barely not enough." The hologram of All Might doesn't seem to think that it's a sad thing. "But there is one aspect of the test we don't advertise… rescue points!"

The hologram changes to show multiple images. There's Izuku, tackling Tesutesu so he doesn't get hit by gunfire. There's Izuku running back and picking him up to carry away from the zero pointer. And finally, there's Izuku protecting Tesutesu with his own body even when death is a but certain.

"Yes, this is what we like to see. No hesitation, no doubt. Only grim determination to do what's right. How could we turn away such a noble person? As heroes ourselves, we can't. Therefore, thirty rescue points for Midoriya Izuku! Congratulations, Young Man. Welcome to your hero academia."

Izuku sits back in his chair. He tries not to cry. He cries a lot.

Notes:

Boom, another friend. Also Izuku being a badass, which is always great. The next one is the first day which, I will warn you now, probably won't be what you expect. Just keep an open mind and try to enjoy the ride. Cheers!

Chapter 10

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"And then, I sh*t you not, this man says 'Duck!' and tackles me like I'm not made of solid steel."

The bar comes down and touches his chest.

"Yeah, that's Midoriya all right. You said he pulled something even cooler after that?"

"Oh, yeah, are you kidding? This kid—"

"Wasn't he a man?"

"It doesn't matter. Midoriya uses me as, like, bait, and starts beating the crap outta the robots with bits of their own bodies."

The bar rises back up and then back down.

"So he let you get blasted to bits so he could rack up points."

"When you phrase it like that it doesn't sound as badass. But yes."

Back up, back down, and up again.

"That also sounds like Midoriya. What next?"

"The zero pointer showed it. Like, that thing was bigger than, than… I dunno, it was huge. It starts to chase us. Midoriya started to leave but then he came back and carried me."

"You couldn't walk yourself?"

"I was totally gassed."

"After what? Five minutes of go time? Sounds like you need more cardio!"

"That's what he said too! But cardio kills gains!"

"No it doesn't! Get off your lazy ass and run a five k."

"No."

"Yes!"

"Fine. I got your cardio right here." Tesutesu reaches into the pocket of his sweatpants and does a show of digging through it. He pulls his hand back out and raises his middle finger. "Mass over endurance, bitch!"

"Just because Mido's mom said that doesn't make it universal."

The bar comes back down. And doesn't go up because Izuku starts to laugh like mad. He feels the weight dig into his chest, but he can't find the strength to push it off. He's torn between asking for help, laughing, and trying to curse out Tokage for her joke.

"T-t-take the weight!" he stutters. "Take it now!"

His two friends grab a side of the bar each and hoist it up to the rack. Izuku sits up and tries to calm down, but a few residual giggles remain. His chest feels a little bit bruised so he lifts his tank top up to see the damage. A thick purple line runs through the middle of his chest. It's not bad. He looks up and sees that both Tesutesu and Tokage are looking at his chest as well.

"Cardio kills gains," he says with a straight face. Tesutesu snorts.

"Bastard."

"So does that mean it's cool to make jokes about your mom, now?" Tokage asks, watching Izuku wipe the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. "I mean, you did laugh at one."

"No, it's not," Izuku says, standing up and stretching his arms. "In fact, f*ck you for doing that, I almost died."

"Don't be drama queen," Tokage says, rapping the plates on the bar with her knuckles. "We got it off of ya quickly enough."

"And going out lifting weights ain't so bad," Tesutesu ads. "Granted, Tokage's little joke kinda makes it worse, but it's still cool!"

"No, it's not. Especially when one of your friends is talking about hav-h—" Izuku gags. "I can't even say it, it's so bad!"

"Quit being a baby, dude," Tokage says with a laugh. "It's not that big of a deal."

"It is when Miruko talks about it nonstop."

"She does that cause she knows it gets under your skin," Tokage says. "Just ignored it and she'll stop."

"No the f*ck she won't!" Izuku looks over to the entrance of the gym to see a pair of white ears and a long fur coat.

"Great," he mutters. "Here we go again." But his frustration is fake. He has an ace up his sleeve.

"The hell are you f*cks doing up so late on a school night?" Miruko asks, strutting up and roughly raking her hand through Izuku's curls. She does the same to Tokage but looks at Tesutesu like he's an alien. "And who the hell is this?"

"The meathead he saved in the entrance exam," Tokage says, cashing Tesutesu to scoff.

"Oi! I resent that. Using the M-word in the weight room is a sin!" He crosses his arms and tries to pretend that he's not in awe of Miruko. "It's an honor to meet you," he says after a second. "You're really freaking awesome."

Miruko grunts and gives him the once over. "You need more cardio training." Tesutesu goes beat red and Tokage laughs. Miruko continues, "No, but seriously, why are you lifting the night before your first day? That's dumb as sh*t."

"Well, we're dumb as sh*t," Tokage says, shooting Miruko the finger guns. "And it's fun."

"There ain't nothing better than pumping iron when you're a man of steel," Tesutesu continues.

Miruko looks at Izuku. "What's your excuse? I know you're all buddy buddy with the owner of this joint but why the hell is it empty?"

"Bart is having dinner with his daughters," Izuku explains, sitting back down on the bench. "He gave me the keys and said I could lift if I didn't pull anything. Naturally I set a trap."

Miruko tilts her head. "Trap?"

"Yep," Izuku says, checking the time on his phone. "She'll be here in… oh, right about now!"

"She?" Miruko asks, looking at Tokage and Tesutesu to see if they know anything. Both of them shrug. Izuku feels a smile creep onto his face.

The door to the gym opens with a jingle, and Midoriya Inko steps inside. Izuku stands and jogs over. "Hi, Mom," he says, wrapping her up in a hug. He makes sure to turn so he's facing in towards the gym. He looks at Miruko. She's frozen. Slowly, her blank expression shifts into shock and disbelief. Izuku smirks.

"Hello, sweetie," his mom says, pulling back from his hold. She takes a look around. "Is this where you've been training? It's a little… rough."

"Oh, don't worry about that." Izuku gently takes her by the arm and leads her further in. "Everyone here is great and safety is really important."

"That's good to hear! I'd hate for you to get injured." She stops walking a few feet away from his friends and Izuku sits down on a bench. He looks at Miruko. Your move, he mouths.

"Um, hello… ma'am," Miruko says, trying to give Izuku the stink eye while being polite to his mother. Her voice cracks a little, and Tokage and Tesutesu laugh at her. "It's, ah, nice to meet you."

"It's lovely to meet you as well!" his mother says, extending a hand. Miruko accepts it and they shake. "Oh my, you're quite muscular! And your legs! I'm sure you're amazing at jumping."

"I, uh, I am!" Miruko says, red in the face and Izuku's mom gently feels her forearm. "I've, er, been in the business for a while, now. I have lots of experience lifting weights and fighting."

"Really?" His mother drops Miruko's arm. "But you're so young! You must have lots of energy to spend if you've gotten that much action at such an early age."

Miruko swallows, and Izuku sees a bead of sweat run down her neck. If only he had popcorn. "Y-yeah, something like that."

Tokage and Tesutesu join him on the bench. They watch Miruko gradually go from barely being able to answer to being a babbling mess. "You're one tricky bastard," Izuku hears them say. He crosses his arms and watches Miruko fail to look his mother in the eye as she talks about having dinner together.

"Yep."

[x]

By divine luck or human meddling, Izuku winds up in the same class as both Tokage and Tesutesu. They ride the train together, huddling in a corner and admiring their U.A uniforms like they're made of gold. They speculate on what classes will be like and how good their classmates will be. According to Tokage, the recommendation students are all top notch. And Tesutesu heard from a middle school friend that there was a girl with a plant Quirk in their exam that racked up over fifty points just killing robots.

And then there's Izuku. The Quirkless wonder, though no one other than his friends and Bakugo know it. Still, he's proud of his sixty total points. He edged out Tesutesu, who got fifty six, and placed in the top fifteen. He did his research, and apparently no one Quirkless has gotten into U.A. Ever. Even in the business, support, and general departments. Tokage says he should be in a history textbook. Tesutesu says that would only mean one more thing for them to study in class. Izuku just doesn't want to be treated like some kind of zoo animal.

The halls of U.A High are pristine and clean. Izuku can see his reflection in the sheen of the floor. He feels a little nervous and it shows. He only has to worry about orientation but his face is set hard. His friends also seem to sober up as they approach the doorway. Izuku lays a palm on the handle. He looks at his friends, who flank him. They nod. He opens the door…

And promptly swears something absolutely foul because Bakugo f*cking Katsuki is sitting front and center. The universe hates him, he decides as he finds his seat. Which is right behind Bakugo and far away from his friends because of course it is. There's even a blue haired boy with glasses chewing Izuku's old bully out for whatever reason. It should make him feel happy. Bakugo getting what's coming to him is always great. But the blue haired boy absolutely rubs him the wrong way.

"... Soumi private academy? Oh, they definitely shoved a stick up your ass!"

"How crude! UA students are expected to be polite and approachable! To belittle a fellow classmate goes against the core values of this institution! And you still haven't taken your feet off of that desk!"

"It's got my f*ckin' name on it," Bakugo says, leaning back with his hands on the back of his head. "I can do whatever the hell I want."

The blue haired boy practically explodes. He begins to lecture Bakugo on having respect for his elders. Izuku tries to tune it out, but it's so loud. The two argue and trade petty insults, and Bakugo's head is almost touching his desk. Izuku hates it. An idea strikes.

Cracking his neck, Izuku leans back in his seat. He lazily waves to Tokage and Tesutesu as he pulls his legs up to his chest. Then he reads them on the back of Bakugo's chair, brushing the other boy's head with the heels of his shoes. "Whoops, my bad. Just trying to get comfy."

It doesn't make their yelling any less loud or annoying. But it's pretty entertaining to watch them both scream at him. He looks to his friends across the room and rolls his eyes. It only makes the yelling louder, but Tesutesu cracks a smile and Tokage hides her laugh in her hand. A fist trade in his book.

"Pipe down, would you." Every teenager in the room—which is twenty, now, the rest filed in—freezes at the sound of an adult voice. Fortyish eyes (one guy has, like eight and there's one dude who might have four, it's hard to tell) scan the area. They find nothing. "I'm down here." Izuku watches as what appears to be a homeless man unzips a sleeping bag and stands up. He looks around the room, unimpressed.

"Not one of you noticed me for a full two minutes. That's disgraceful." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pouch of something. He downs it in one slurp. "Now, my name is Aizawa Shota. You may call me Mr Aizawa or simply Sir. I don't care which. Today for homeroom you'll be taking a Quirk test."

"But what about orientation?" a girl with distinctly frog like features asks.

The man shrugs. "What about it?" He reaches into his sleeping bag and pulls out a blue garment. "Put these on and head outside. No more questions, we've wasted enough time already."

Izuku hangs in the back of the crowd with his friends as Mr. Aizawa explains each of the tests. Bakugo, of course, gets to show off and wows everyone. His friends included. Tokage at least knows he was bullied and got into fights, but she doesn't know with whom. Tesutesu doesn't know a thing, but he's bright enough to figure out how a Quirkless kid would normally be treated. They might be able to piece together that he doesn't like Bakugo, but they won't be able to fully understand everything. Which means they think Bakugo is hot sh*t.

He doesn't hold it against them. Bakugo is impressive in some regard. He just wishes everyone would treat the bastard like he deserved to be treated. But he's probably out of luck, because…

"Cool? Awesome? Fun? You think my class is a joke?" Mr. Aizawa glares at them harshly. To his right, Tokage mutters a quiet oh sh*t. "How about this for a laugh. The person who scores last gets expelled."

Izuku does his best to hide his surprise. U.A can't do that. Right? The amount of pushback they'd get from outraged parents would be ridiculous if they did. But when Izuku looks his homeroom teacher in the eye he sees only callous apathy. He licks his lips and prepares himself mentally.

"Hey." Tesutesu nudges the back of his arm. "You good? I… not gonna lie, I'd be sh*tting my pants if I were you."

Izuku keeps his eyes trained on Mr. Aizawa, who's having a few people line up for the hundred meter dash.

"If I sh*t my pants, I'm probably disqualified," Izuku says calmly. "And it'd be more weight. Half these kids look like they haven't touched a dumbbell or ran more than a kilometer in their life, too. I think I'll be alright."

The hundred meter dash is a cakewalk. Izuku balzes ahead of a boy with blond hair and a black highlight, and completely trashes a girl who's completely invisible.

The grip test is pretty bad. Izuku loses to Tesutesu, a girl with vines for hair, a boy with eight arms, and a sentient shadow. But he has the second best flexibility in the class, right behind the invisible girl.

His long jump is slightly above the average. Considering that half the people completely cleared the sand pit, Izuku thinks it's an accomplishment. Tesutesu ties his score by turning to steel mid jump to gain more momentum.

In situps and side-to-side jumps, he places first. All of his core workouts and hours boxing paid off, and he smugly looks to Tokage, who does significantly worse in both. The ball throw after that is okay—he places fifteenth or so—but the last test is what has him excited. Distance running.

Izuku dominates. Most of the people are suffering from some kind of Quirk exhaustion by the time they have to run, and the ones that aren't are way less fit than him. Izuku takes third, behind the blue haired boy who yelled at him and the girl with vines for hair.

They all gather by the ball throw area when they're done. Aizawa stands below a big black screen with a remote in his hands. "These are the results. Please do not gloat too hard. All of you could've done significantly better."

1st: Shiozaki Ibara

2nd: Todoroki Shoto

3rd: Bakugo Katsuki

4th: Tenya Iida

5th: Tokage Setsuna

.

.

.

13th: Tesutesu Tesutesu

.

.

.

20th: Midoriya Izuku

"What?" Izuku whispers. "That's—"

"Midoriya," Mr. Aizawa says, ice cold, "please head to the principal's office. You are expelled."

Something inside of him cracks. His blood boils.

"No I'm not."

"Pardon?" Aizawa asks, his tone daring him to continue. Izuku doesn't back down.

"You heard me. I'm not expelled."

"My word here is law," Aizawa says, stepping forward. The class parts and Izuku is left to face the man alone. "I set the rules, which say that the person in twentieth place goes home. You are in twentieth place. You are expelled."

"No. I'm. Not." Izuku stands tall and pushes his chin out. "There's no way in hell I'm last. You fudged the score."

"Really?" Aizawa crosses his arms. "I don't think so."

"You're a f*cking dick," Izuku says, ignoring the way the entire class gasps at his vulgarity. "I didn't come in last and I'll prove it. Right here, right now."

"No," Aizawa says. "Leave. Immediately."

"If you don't let me, I'll sue."

Aizawa raises an eyebrow. "On what charges?"

"Discrimination," Izuku says. "The one Quirkless person in the class comes in last even when there's at least two people who's Quirks offer nothing of use for the tests. Everyone saw me beat both the invisible girl and the electric guy in every event. Clearly you have a grudge against Quirkless people and shouldn't be teaching. I'll win and you'll be fired, U.A will be forced to pay out a lot of money, and your hero license will likely be taken."

Aizawa's lips curl into a smirk. "Very well then, Midoriya Izuku. You may have your redo. Everyone who placed fifteenth or below, line up! Now!"

The people he's competing against are a varied lot. There's the invisible girl, a tiny boy with purple balls for hair, a guy with weird looking elbows, the boy with the electricity Quirk, and a girl with aux cords dangling from her ears. They're all completely different, except for the way they all look at Izuku in fear and anger. But Izuku bears their hate easily. He glares back and puffs out his chest. He won't back down. He won't be pushed over. He will fight because he deserves to be here. The other five can eat it for all he cares.

The second round of tests is so one sided it's funny. Izuku thrashes everyone in the one hundred meter, ball toss, grip strength, and sit ups. He takes second in the seated toe touch, long jump, and side-to-side steps. By the time the distance run comes, the others are nearly crying. But Izuku lines up with a stoney face and a hardened heart.

The ten minutes time they get to run isn't even needed. The others throw in the towel after half of it. But Izuku practically sprints the whole time, taking pleasure in the way every step pushes him forward and how his lungs burn in exhaustion. He runs two and a half kilometers, a personal record. But victory and personal achievement prove bitter.

"You five, go," Aizawa says. Izuku's second batch of competitors don't even have the strength to argue. "If you can't use your Quirks to outperform someone without one, you do not deserve to be here."

Everyone avoids Izuku after that. Everyone except for his friends, who solemnly watch the crying trope of five leave the testing facility.

"How unheroic."

"Cheating bastard."

"One for five is an awful deal. You should've taken one for the team."

"Disgusting. How can you stand there like that, know you crushed their hopes and dreams?"

"Well, no one can be perfect," Izuku says, looking straight at Aizawa. The man has the audacity to look perfectly at ease. Izuku feels the urge to punch him in the throat. "Even those of us who should be."

Izuku wants to punch Aizawa, but he mostly wants sti punch himself. All of his life he's been beaten down and spit on. He can count on one hand the amount of people who truly believe in him. How stupid was he to think that U.A, the makers of the very people who made him seem worthless, would be any different?

Notes:

When I said to keep an open mind, I didn't mean for y'all to think he'd be in 1-B. I wanted you to be little prepared to have your expectations shaken. 1-B Izuku would be fun, but I don't wanna write those guys. I don't know most of them well enough and Vlad King isn't as interesting to me as Aizawa. And speaking of him, oh boy...

Dude's a hardass. Yeah he's got a soft spot for the kids, but he's a bastard early on. Rewatch season one. He belittles Izuku infront of everyone, doesn't try to help him with his Quirk, and he doesn't punish Bakugo for his behaviorat all. Dadzawa is a slow burn, people. The only reason it jump starts in cannon is because of the USJ, but before that? He's pretty awful to the kids from what we see. But it sorta makes sense.

He wants his students to be ready for anything. The world isn't kind, fair, or happy. Why should Aizawa be those things when he's preparing his students for the real world which isn't? He knows damn well that Izuku is going to be treated like garbage. He knows damn well that a Quirkless hero won't last unless they've got balls of steel. So he prepares Izuku for that by wronging him. Is it extream? Yes. Awful? Definitely. Out of character? I don't think so, no. A lot of fics paint him as a softy, which is fun. I like that. It can make sense. But I cannot see season one Aizawa treating a Quirkless student fairly like he does in other fics.

Also, if it wasn't obvious class 1-A is different. Setsuna got swapped for Momo, Tesutesu replaced Kirishima, and Shiozaki replaced Ochako.

That was a lot, lol. And I didn't even talk about the whole 'Eraserhead fights Quirkless most of the time' headcannon a lot of the fandom has (which I hate, btw). I hope you don't drop this story. I know how popular Aizawa is and I kinda ruined any potential for Dadzawa. But my other fic has Dadzawa. Lots of other fics have Dadzawa, too. I want to try something different.

Have a nice day! Cheers!

PS, discord? I got a comment saying I should make one. Should I? Let me know.

Chapter 11

Notes:

Spoilers for Manga chapter 254. Read at your own risk.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

"That was f*cked up."

"I know."

"You should do something about it."

"I know."

"Are you going to tell your mom?"

"... No."

"You should."

"I know."

"This… look, man, you need to raise some hell about it. Because if you don't, someone else will suffer if it continues. sh*t, people have already been punished just because a teacher felt like throwing their weight around. Get a lawyer."

"I know." Izuku sighs and leans forward in the train seat. Tokage and Tesutesu continue to sit up straight. "But… would people really side with me? I… My dad's a lawyer or something, but he can't represent us as one because of personal bias. He could represent me as a guardian, but people probably wouldn't take his arguments as seriously."

"Okay, but you were still discriminated against in the top heroics school in the country," Tesutesu says. "That is a huge deal. There's no way you'd lose with such blatant evidence."

"No one gives a sh*t about Quirkless people," Izuku mutters. "You saw how the rest of the class reacted. They probably see me as a waste of a spot. And it's even worse since I forced a quarter of the roster out. They'll think I'll do the same to them in a heartbeat if I can."

"You were forced to fight for yourself," Tokage points out. "You also didn't know he'd kick five people out. They're idiots for thinking that way, you shouldn't give a sh*t."

"I don't," Izuku says, though it's not convincing. He scowls at the floor and clenches his fists. "I want to be liked. I want friends. But people will think of me as an aggressor now. I'll only have you two and have to deal with all sorts of sh*t from the rest of the class."

"You're making them sound like a pack of wild animals," Tesutesu says.

"That's basically what people are."

"Alright, teenage angst, calm down." Tokage roughly nudges him on the shoulder. "No one'll give a sh*t about your Highschool years after you graduate. Just buckle down and get through them. We'll help you, too, and if you wanna raise hell, start by talking to the principal. In the meantime, you guys wanna spar?"

"Sure!"

"Yeah. That's a good plan. Fight now, talk to Nedzu tomorrow after school."

It was a good plan. Was. Izuku fully committed to having words with U.A's… eccentric principal. Until he walked into class the next morning and saw the five people that got expelled sitting at their desks looking like they saw death.

"What in the f*ck," Tokage says, doing a double take. Which Izuku silently seconds because in whatever amount of nightmare scenarios he imagined last night, there wasn't one like this.

Izuku clears his throat and everyone in the room turns to look at him. Almost everyone is at their desk, and their expressions all sour when their eyes land on him. The people who were expelled yesterday immediately look away and start to shift nervously in their seats.

He licks his lips nervously. He should say something to cut the tension. Something memorable and sincere. Not an apology, but definitely a show of good faith. He only hates two people in this class. Everyone else seems okay except for how they yelled at him yesterday. But what to say...

Izuku decides to opens mouth and say the first thing that comes to mind. Surely it can't be that bad. It'll at least be honest.

"We better not have a problem today."

sh*t. sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, f*ck. That was the wrong thing. Tokage snorts behind him and he hears Tesutesu suck in a pained breath and fight the urge to laugh. Izuku fights to hold his even expression because if he breaks after saying something like that he'll look like an idiot.

"co*cky bastard," Bakugo says. Izuku tries to ignore him. Tries. He winds up glaring at the boy instead, and they end up in a standoff. People cough to try to relieve the tension. The girl with aux cords for earlobes touches the tips of the jacks together in a nervous tick. The boy with a living shadow remains perfectly still. The girl with vines for hair keeps an eye on Izuku, seemingly ready to break up a fight. The only unaffected person seems to be the boy with split colored hair in the back.

"Are we done here?"

The tension vanishes in an instant. It's quickly replaced by a new kind of tension when Aizawa strolls in and looks all of them over one by one. "Take your seats. No talking."

Aizawa waits until everyone has settled in. No one bothers to say good morning. The man leans against the front wall and casually crosses his arms. "You all have questions. One person may ask them for you. Raise your hands and I'll pick who."

No one dares to. Until, after a moment of cold silence, a girl with pink skin holds her hand up.

"Ashido," Aizawa says with a nod. "Go ahead."

"Just… why?" the girl asks. "Why threaten us? Why did you let him—" she points to Izuku "—do that to the others? We made it into UA. Aren't we all worthy of being here?"

"No," Aizawa says simply. "None of you are. Not yet. Right now you're a bunch of whiney, hormonal, carefree teenagers. UA trains heroes. You are not heroes. Until you are, you're not worthy of being here."

"That's a bit harsh," Ashido says. "It was the first day."

"And your first day as a real hero wouldn't be?" Aizawa asks. "The world is an awful place. Millions of people die every day, and billions go through some kind of suffering at the same time. Should you graduate, you will have to fight against those awful things. It's best if you're prepared for that as early on as possible."

"But will we even graduate?" Ashido looks at the people who were expelled. "You kicked them out. I talked to some of the upperclassmen, and they actually went home. But they're here now. Why?"

"I am a firm believer in second chances," Aizawa begins. "As pathetic as their performances were yesterday, they still have some small amount of potential. They will have the opportunity to show it, just as you and the rest of the class will. If any of you show that you lack the potential to be great, however, you will be kicked out for real. And as for the expulsions…"

Aizawa's face screws up into an ugly smile. "That was just a logical ruse to encourage you to work harder."

"But that's shameful!" the blue haired boy yells. He stands in his seat and wildly chops his arm up and down. "Heroes don't lie! Teachers don't either! If you blatantly deceive us on the first day, how are we supposed to trust you?"

Aizawa shrugs. "Don't. I really could care less. My job is to whip you into shape, not to be your friend."

Most of the people seem to flinch at that. Probably because their teachers were actually pleasant in middle school. But Izuku's weren't. He supposes that's one thing he can thank Aldara for. Preparing him for jackass teachers.

Izuku slouches in his chair and prepares for math class. If Aizawa wants to treat him unfairly because the world will do the same, that's fine. Izuku will just treat Aizawa the way he treats the world. With total disregard for it's stupid opinions.

[x]

"I am here! Coming through the door like a normal person!"

Foundations of Heroics was always going to be an exciting class. Everyone has immediately decided to forget about the events of both today's and yesterday's homeroom in favor of chatting about it. Then All Might walked in and everything got ten times more exciting.

"Can I have an autograph?"

"I love your costume! So retro!"

"Woah, you're even more muscular in person!"

"What are we doing in class today?"

All Might laughs, boisterous and loud. "Settle down, young heroes! I will answer all of your questions in due time. But for now, let's prepare for today's lesson! Alakazam!" All Might clicks a button on the remote in his hand. The walls of the classroom slide open in sections revealing small cubbies. "To be a hero you must first look the part! Please grab the case with your number on it and change. I'll be waiting in the room down the hall!"

Izuku's costume isn't anything flashy. Before he met Miruko, he had a sketch in his notebook that, looking back, was completely embarrassing. He threw it out and redrew one that's much more suitable for him and his style.

The material is a dark, forest green with black and grey highlights strategically placed to break up his form. It's practically skin tight, that way the people he fights up close can't get a solid grip on him. The boots have traction pads on the bottom, along with retractable spikes for climbing buildings. His shins, knees, elbows, and forearms have metal braces meant to absorb damage. His torso is padded with some basic armor. Around his neck is a respirator and a pair of goggles are pushed into his hairline. He also has gadgets. Mostly smoke bombs and noisemakers, but there's a holster for his taser and a pair of handcuffs. But the crowning jewel is the hood.

When down, it sticks to the back of his costume. But when it's up, it protects his face and neck while also serving as an intimation factor. The fact that it has two strips of cloth that look exactly like rabbit ears has nothing to do with how great it is. Not at all.

"Yo, Midoriya!" Tokage calls to him as he walks into the room. She waves, and Izuku wades through the crowd of people. "Whaddya think, eh, eh?" She does a little flourish and licks the tip of her index finger. She touches it to her rear and makes a hissing sound. "Pretty hot, right?"

"You look awful in purple," Izuku says. Tokage scoffs.

"Excuse you? I'll have you know that purple has been my favorite color since I was three!"

"So you've had awful taste for much longer than I previously thought. Interesting."

Tokage opens her mouth to retort, but Tesutesu butts in. "Hey, guys! Sorry it took so long, this thing is kinda hard to put on."

Tokage looks him over. "Really? It's just a grey jumpsuit. You couldn't've gone with a simpler option. Are you sure you're not an idiot?"

"Nope!" Tesutesu says shamelessly. "But I don't really care how it looks or how easy it is to put on. It's just gotta tell people that I'm a hero who's in control."

"It does look pretty tough," Izuku compliments.

"Excuse you?" Tokage exhales sharply and points to Tesutesu before pointing to herself. "Huh? You're saying that that is better than this?"

"Purple scales are out of fashion, you know," Tesutesu says, hiding a chortle.

"Ha. Ha. Ha. Fu—"

"Attention class!" All Might says, holding up a hand. "Today's lesson is about to begin!" He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a sheet of paper.

"Is that a script?"

"Ahem! Outside these doors is a building. Inside the building is a false nuclear bomb due to explode in five minutes. Two heroes have been dispatched to apprehend the villain duo guarding the bomb and to prevent it from exploding. Everyone will be placed on a team and given a role. The villains will have ten minutes of prep time and everyone will be given capture tape. When the ten minutes are up, the hero team is free to enter the building. Sounds good?"

"Yes, sir," most of the class responds.

"Perfect! Now to draw lots! Please refrain from strategizing until your planning period."

Izuku ends up on a team with Tokage. Tesutesu gets paired up with the vine girl—Shiozaki—who took first place yesterday. Everyone seems more or less okay with their teams. Bakugo's the exception because of course he is. The blond git glares at a short frog-like girl in such a way that Izuku can tell that the first words out if his mouth will be something akin to "Don't hold me back!"

"Now that we're all ready," All Might says, reaching each of his hands into a box each. One is red and the other is blue, and he shuffles whatever's inside of them around. He swiftly pulls out both hands at the same time and calls, "Here's our first match! Team one is the villains and team eight will be the heroes!"

"Alright, Tesutesu," Tokage encourages, giving the boy a hearty slap on the back. "Sucks that you gotta be the villain, but it's still cool to go first. Go kick some ass!"

"You got it," Tesutesu says with a smile. Izuku accepts his fist bump and gives him a quick wish of good luck. The taller boy jogs over to join his teammate and his opponents by All Might, who hands him an earpiece.

As the two teams head outside, one of the walls lights up. It displays security camera footage of the building and its surroundings. The bomb is on the first floor, but Tesutesu quickly moves it to the top floor. Shiozaki casts out her vines to use as snares and stands on the roof, watching the hero team plan on the street below. Tesutesu takes up positions on the ground floor, right in front of the door. He doesn't budge an inch when the buzzer sounds and Todoroki walks in with Hagakure by his side.

"The son of a bitch has plan," Tokage says, watching as the Tesutesu on screen starts to smile.

"I'm not surprised. He looked like a kid in a candy store when he was talking to Shiozaki." Izuku rests his hands on his hips, regretting that his costume doesn't have pockets. "I'm thinking he's the distraction. Todoroki will probably try to overwhelm him with ice but he'll just blast through it. Shiozaki will use that to sneak up behind them and wrap them up in vines. That's my guess as to why she's on the roof when the bomb's on the top floor."

"It could be for a different reason though," Tokage says. "If I were Todoroki I'd try to get to the roof and work down. It'd be a surprise for the villains and Hagakure could even slip in from the bottom to work up at the same time."

"We'll just have to see," Izuku says, watching as Todoroki stops in front of Tesutesu and stares him down. Hagakure is impossible to read, but she seems wary. She hides behind her teammate even when she could be sneaking around Tesutesu. And she hasn't even bothered to ditch her globes and boots.

"What's taking them—"

Whoever spoke is cut off by Todoroki, who stomps on the ground and encases the whole room in ice. But it goes beyond that. The whole building slowly becomes a glacier. Widows shatter and are replaced by ice. Staircases become ramps. The roof practically turns into an igloo.

"Holy sh*t," Izuku hears himself say.

"Holy sh*t," Tokage agrees. "I… he came in second in the recommendation exam, but I never expected him to be so… so extra."

"He is Endevor's kid, right?" Izuku asks. "I thought I recognized the name."

"Yeah, he is. But look at Tesutesu."

Izuku does and finds that his friend is still smiling. It's actually an even brighter smile than before, but there's a touch of co*ckiness and satisfaction to it. Izuku recalls Miruko describing a similar look as sh*t eating.

The entire class watches as Todoroki and Hagakure approach Tesutesu. A close up shot shows Todoroki saying something. Izuku's not sure what but he knows it's co*cky and self indulgent. Tesutesu keeps still, though, relaxing in his icy prison with shiny metal skin and a smile. He waits until Todoroki is just about to walk past him, and then he pounces.

He breaks free from the ice and decks Todoroki across the face. It's a good punch, and his fist is solid steel. Todoroki goes down, crumpling into a heap. His mouth starts to bleed. Tesutesu freezes. He looks from his fist to Todoroki's body. Izuku's not that good at reading lips but even he can tell that he says "Oh sh*t."

"Please continue the match," All Might says into a microphone. "Young Todoroki is still alive and will be cared for by our medical staff shortly!"

Tesutesu looks up at the ceiling, nods, and then whirls around to look at Hagakure. The girl jumps, slips, and lands on her butt. She scampers away, but a mass of vines burst from the wall behind her and wrap her up. Shiozaki descends the iced over stairs using her hair. She quickly binds Todoroki as well, and All Might calls the match.

Once everyone but Todoroki is back in the viewing room, they replay the match. Tesutesu is given the MVP award, and All Might gives a few pointers to Hagakure, who's practically shaking in the corner. Everyone congratulates the winner, and All Might calls the next teams. When he does, Izuku swears. He gets a few odd looks, but he ignores them.

"Bakugo Katsuki and Asui Tsuyu versus Midoriya Izuku and Tokage Setsuna."

"f*ck my life."

Notes:

I'm a tease, but I don't care. Enjoy your cliffhanger, my friends.

Also, most of you liked how I wrote Aizawa, which is great. Uh, I kinda forgot that not everyone knows he re-enrolls the people he expels, so it might be a bit of a shock fkr some of you to see the five back in class. But it's cannon, I swear!

I hope you enjoyed. Cheers!

Chapter 12

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Midoriya, I can change the match if you don't want to fight Bakugo and Asui."

Izuku feels his left eye twitch, and he stares down at his feet in frustration. All Might at least had the decency to take him aside for this, and Izuku kind of saw it coming. But it still hurts.

"No. You already told everyone the matchup. Changing it would be embarrassing."

"Pride is no excuse to put yourself at risk," All Might says, kneeling down in front of him. Izuku looks up and into his cobalt blue eyes. They seem sad and pitiful. Izuku tastes bile in the back of his throat.

"Are you calling me weak?" Izuku says, schooling his expression in cold indifference as best he can.

"No. I saw your exam tape, it's quite impressive. That level of thinking and athleticism is amazing for a boy your age, and your actions during the test were heroic and pure." All Might sighs and looks away from him. "But you're not ready to take explosions to the face." Oh, the things people don't know about Bakugo. It'd almost be funny if Izuku wasn't still afraid of loud noises. Almost.

"I'll have to eventually," Izuku says, pushing aside that dark bit of irony. "It's better to start now than later. And I'm not afraid of Bakugo."

"That's good. Bravery is important for a hero. But so is knowing your battles." All Might stands and rests a heavy hand on Izuku's shoulder. "I'll respect your decision for now. However if at any time you feel like you're unsafe, say so. I'll be listening in."

"Respectfully, sir," Izuku says, because he really does respect All Might, at least during this conversation, "I'm not going to use that out, even if it kills me."

All Might chuckles. "Plus Ultra indeed."

"So, care to share what you're brooding about with the rest of the class?"

Izuku looks at Tokage, brow creased. "What do you mean by brooding? I'm planning."

"Planning is not a synonym for resting bitch face." Tokage leans up against the wall of the building. Over their earpieces, All Might lets them know that their ten minute planning window has started.

"I don't have resting bitch face," Izuku says, checking over the things on his belt.

"Not normally, no, but right now?" Tokage stands right in front of him and frows. Her eyes look dead and her nose is scrunched like she smells something slightly rotten. "You've got it bad. Why?"

"All Might tried to get me to back down," Izuku says.

"Yeah, but you told him to f*ck off," Tokage says, shrugging. "That's not what's getting to ya. So…"

"So?" Izuku says, trying to get around it.

Tokage sighs and shakes her head. "Look, all I'm saying is that you look like you wanna f*ck Bakugo's mom right in front of him before kicking him in the dick with steel toe boots."

Izuku snorts, fighting the smile that creeps onto his face. "That's… that's not in the blueprint," he says, laughing. "I just want to kick his ass."

"I do too, but you wanna crush him."

"What's the difference?"

"You hate Bakugo," Tokage says. "I want to know why. And you don't have to tell me!" she rushes to reassure him. "I just want to know if I should hate him too. Because you don't want to hurt people for no reason. Like, yeah, you made five people cry yesterday, but you didn't like that. I bet you have a good reason for hating Bakugo."

Izuku stares at her for a moment. She's dead serious. "Take out your earpiece," he says, reaching for his own.

"Alright, but—"

Izuku grabs her wrist and leans in to whisper in her ear. "He's the guy I almost got expelled for kicking the ass of. A week before transferring schools." Izuku backs away and watches her do the math. Her expression darkens.

"Bakugo, he…" she trails off, waving a hand in a vague gesture.

"Yeah."

Tokage nods, chewing the inside of her cheek. "Let's f*ckin' kill him."

Izuku grins, wide and fierce. "Here's the plan…"

It's stupid, co*cky, and completely self-indulgent. But dammit if Izuku doesn't want it to work to a T. Once the clock hits zero and they're told to start, he hitches a ride on one part of Tokage. She carries him all the way up to a window ledge and helps him perch above it. The spikes in his boots come in handy for it, as does the small coil of rope he has. Once she makes sure he's secure, Tokage leaves to scout. She leaves her mouth and puts most of her body somewhere safe and accessible. Her eyes, ears, and even her nose go on the hunt.

"The bomb's on the top floor. Asui is guarding it. The second and third floors are clear, but I smell something sweet on the fourth."

Izuku nods and counts the number of windows below him. He starts to change the position of his rope. An ear floats up beside Tokage's mouth. "Send an eye and a finger or something here. I want you to watch the widow under me, which is the third. He's probably working down. Signal me when you see him. Use your mouth to distract him or Asui if you can."

"Got it. And you're absolutely sure he'll ignore me to fight you once sh*t starts to go down?"

"Yeah," Izuku says with a wry smile. "The bastard wants revenge for his nose, I'd bet my Quirk on it."

Tokage's mouth chuckles. "Smartass. Just give me a moment and I'll be in position. When do you want me to go for the bomb?"

"If I scream bloody murder, end it." Izuku looks up at the upper floors. "Asui is nimble and quick, and her tongue is a big threat. But she'll have trouble keeping all of your pieces away from the bomb. Try to always be in position to secure the win."

"Gotcha," Tokage says as one of her eyes and a foot float up from the ground. "I'm gonna go now. I'll kick you when I see him."

"Good luck."

Her mouth and ear move out to do their jobs and Izuku is left to stare at a singular eye. It blinks at him, which is a little creepy. He looks away and flexes his muscles to keep them from going stiff. He rests one hand on his taser. For a moment he thinks about whether or not trying to embarass and shame Bakugo in a class setting is the right way to go. Live and let live, a saying he used to give a lot of credit to, moves through his mind. Izuku remembers all the times Bakugo attacked him in class and decides that it's a stupid saying.

Tokage's foot kicks him, and Izuku picks up on the sound of boots hitting solid floor through the window. He takes a deep breath, and unhooks the rope before grabbing it with both hands. He takes his spikes out of the wall and tucks his legs into his chest. Izuku pushes off of the wall and swings through the window.

The glass shatters, spraying everywhere and cutting at his costume. The tough fabric holds, but a small piece nicks his cheek. Izuku ignores it and focuses on keeping hold of the rope. He swings, tensing his body as Bakugo spins to look at him. Red eyes widen in shock. Izuku drives his feet into Bakugo’s gut, knocking him back into a wall.

There's a split second where Izuku's vulnerable. Off balance and in danger of falling on the floor, he dives to the side, avoiding the explosion Bakugo lets off to try and create some distance between them. Izuku hops back up, fists raised and stance wide. He looks Bakugo in the eye, enjoying how he looks like he was just hit by a car.

"Cheap tricks like that won't help you this time," Bakugo spits. He holds his palms out and they start to crackle.

"We'll see about that. I've got a fair amount of them up my sleeve." Izuku sharply twists one of his legs. He doesn't move, but Bakugo tenses. Izuku smirks. "Scared?"

"In your f*cking dreams."

"Cool. I hope you choke on this!"

Bakugo barely gets the chance to be confused before Izuku throws a smoke bomb at him. It goes off with a poof centimeters from his face, and there's a howl of rage. Izuku sprints down the hall, jumping down a set of stairs and diving down a hallway. He takes a second to let his heart rate slow down as Bakugo rushes to find him. It wasn't part of the original plan, but Izuku doesn't want to fight on shards of glass.

"f*cking fight me, you bastard!" Bakugo explodes into the hallway, flying through the air with an angry snarl. One hand is held back, propelling him forward, and the other is ready to swipe at him with a fistful of fire. Izuku almost laughs at him, because…

"A right hook! How original!"

Izuku ducks under the swipe and grabs onto Bakugo's grenade gauntlet with both hands. Using all of his strength, he jerks Bakugo over him and into the floor. Winded, Bakugo tries to get away. But Izuku tackles him on the floor, flipping Bakugo over so he's on his belly and grabbing an arm. Izuku pulls as hard as he can, forcing Bakugo's arm to move across his chest. Izuku puts all of his body weight onto Bakugo's back, hoping to pin him long enough to get his capture tape out. But explosions rip into the air, loosening Izuku's hold and forcing him to get away before they start to hit him.

They stand before each other, tense like coiled springs. Neither wants to make the first move and open himself up to a counter. Bakugo, at the very least, knows Izuku can dodge decently well, and can sort of read his moves. Izuku, on the other hand, knows that if he rushes in without some kind of plan he'll get blown to bits. It wouldn't be a problem normally—he knows he's alright at thinking of something that could work on the fly—but he's blanking right now. For whatever reason, just looking at Bakugo makes it hard to think. His blood refuses to pump anything other than adrenaline through his veins, and his mind only has space for bitterness and anger.

"This is taking too long," Bakugo says, warming his hands with a few explosions. Izuku's hand itches for his taser, but he resists. That's his ace in the hole. He can't use it randomly, or Bakugo might dodge and stop trying to get in close. By all means the fight could be over by now. Bakugo could knock Izuku out with a big hit. But he doesn't want that. He wants a brawl. He wants to prove that he's more skilled than Izuku. And the feeling is more than mutual. "Die, you sh*thead!"

He leads with his right side again, but that only tells Izuku that he's going for a feint. Izuku braces himself and lunges to grab Bakugo's left arm as it swings toward him. But then there's a burning pain in his side, and Izuku goes flying into the nearest wall.

"You think you're so f*cking smart, huh?" Bakugo lets off another explosion, trying to get Izuku to filinch. But he holds strong, clutching his side as he stands up.

"I'm smarter than you," Izuku says, reaching for one of his smoke bombs. "That's all that really matters."

"That won’t work twice!" Bakugo roars, closing the distance before Izuku can throw another bomb. Or at least he thinks that's what he's doing. Instead of being caught off guard, however, Izuku sidesteps and grabs his taser. Twenty-five volts of electricity course through Bakugo's body, his howl of pain drowning out the rapid clicking. Izuku shoves him away and holsters the taser. While Bakugo's off balance he tackles him, grabbing the white capture tape and sticking it to one of his gauntlets. But Bakugo is panicked, and panicked people have a nasty habit of letting their Quirks loose.

His face takes a good hit, as do his legs. His chest and stomach are mostly alright, having been protected by his armor, but Izuku is forced back. Bakugo gets back up, holding both hands in front of him to stave off a charge. He spits onto the floor and glares. "I wasn't gonna do this," he says, steading one arm with the other and hooking a finger around the fake pin of the grenade on his arm. But Izuku's stomach turns over, and he gets the feeling that the grenade isn't so fake. "But you f*cking pissed me off! This thing here is a massive storage tank. You know how my Quirk works, right, Deku?"

"I remember that it's dumb and overrated," Izuku says, trying to think of a plan. The way Bakugo smiles makes his hair stand on end, and he starts to fidget.

"My costume's been collecting my sweat since I put the thing on." Bakugo starts to pull on the pin. "Imagine how big of a blast a half hour's worth of it will make!"

"Bakugo, stop!" the voice of All Might blares through their earpieces. "You are forbidden from using that gauntlet! You could kill somebody!"

"Oh, he'll be alright if he dodges," Bakugo snickers. The pin comes loose and hits the scorched floor. The hole on top of the gauntlet begins to glow. Izuku tries to think of something. He does, but it's stupid and could get him killed. But then again, the blast might do him in anyway, so…

In the tiny amount of time it takes for the explosion to build, Izuku closes the gap between him and Bakugo, uppercuts him as hard as he can, bats the gauntlet away, and pulls the pin on the other grenade.

"You f*cking id—"

A roar, so loud that Izuku can only hear ringing after it first goes off, rips the building apart. The flash blinds him, and the heat singes his hair. And he's not even in the line of fire. There's a second blast a moment later, too, and Izuku feels the building list to the side. But somehow it keeps upright. Mentally, Izuku curses himself for being so stupid.

He starts to cough as the smoke clears, rubbing his eyes and wincing. Slowly, he opens them. The first thing he sees is Bakugo, laying in a heap. Both of his arms are twisted beyond belief, out of their sockets and oozing with blood. Izuku blinks as he looks at a small bit of white poking out of one of Bakugo's arms. He takes him a moment to realize that it's bone.

"Young men." Izuku turns as All Might zips into existence behind him. "The building will hold for now, but let's not risk it. How's… ah."

Izuku winces as All Might kneels beside Bakugo. "I… I'm sorry?" he tries, unsure if he really means it. Bakugo intended to do much worse to him, didn't he?

All Might shakes his head. "He escalated the fight, not you. You had every right to defend yourself, even if the result was…" he trails off, picking Bakugo up in his arms and cradling him like a baby. "This should be a good lesson for him. For now, I'll be taking you both to Recovery Girl. Young Tokage and Young Asui both know how to get down using their Quirks. Come."

"Yes, sir," Izuku says, slowly approaching All Might. "I, uh…"

"Just climb on my back," All Might says. "The cape is sturdy enough to hold your weight."

Izuku swallows, his mouth suddenly dry. "That's not what I wanted to ask. I… this is going to sound really bad, but it's important. Who won?"

All Might stares at Izuku for a moment. He glances down at Bakugo before looking back up. His blue eyes glow with more intelligence than any poster or photo of him has ever managed to capture. "Well," he says, "you're still standing, are you not?"

Izuku silently climbs onto All Might's back. He tries to ignore the way Bakugo moans in pain while he sleeps the whole way to the medical wing.

Notes:

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Chapter 13

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"You got f*cking screwed, is what you're telling me."

Izuku nods and looks around. Their section of the beach is still empty, but he can still hear people on other parts enjoying themselves, spending time away from home on a weeknight. "Yeah, pretty much," he says. "And, uh, I'm pretty sure everyone in that class either hates my guts or is totally afraid of me."

Miruko crosses her arms. "You didn't tell me this sooner, why?"

"I wanted to try and sort it out myself," Izuku says. "But that kinda went out the window when those five were back in class this morning. Everything's fine now. Mostly."

"Mostly?"

Izuku shrugs. "sh*t kinda hit the fan in training today, but I'm fine."

"What the hell happened?" Miruko asks, knowing that he's hiding something.

"My old bully happened," Izuku says. "He's in my class and All Might had us fight in training. I won, but I put him in the nurse's office."

Miruko quirks and eyebrow. "How bad was it?"

"Dislocated shoulders, a compound fracture, and both of his arms were broken in more than six palaces. I was there when he was healed," Izuku clarifies when Miruko looks at him strangely.

"Are you some kind of sad*st?"

"What!? No! If anyone I know is a sad*st, it's you." Izuku kicks at the sand in thought. "It's just… he had these gauntlets that let off massive explosions, and he was going to shoot one at me. I kinda rushed in to redirect the blast, and…"

"And?" Miruko says, urging him on a little.

"I made the other one go off. His arms were in an awkward position and the recoil…" Izuku flops his arms by his sides. "You get the picture."

"UA's a f*cking madhouse is what I'm getting," Miruko says, spitting into the sand. "The second day and they're already letting you guys kill each other. And they didn't even test the punk before giving him those support items?"

"Not that I know of."

"That's borderline illegal. There's a loophole that lets emitters store up what they put out, but actually enhancing the power of a Quirk without testing it and getting a certification is against the law."

"He can sweat nitroglycerin," Izuku says bitterly. "The law's on his side there, just like how teachers are always on his side."

"You're right to be mad about it, but don't throw a f*cking tantrum." Miruko looks out to sea and shoves her hands in the pockets of her jacket. "You're Quirkless, and therefore treated like sh*t by anyone with authority. If you cause too much of a ruckus they'll get you back. But can't give 'em the opportunity to. You need to play by their rules and beat them at their own game. Remember what I told you before you knocked that bitch out back in middle school?"

"Give no sh*t, take no sh*t," Izuku says.

"Good. It's a good life lesson, but I'm gonna add one more. Never throw the first punch. I don't care if people are screaming slurs in your face or calling your mama a whor*, you sit tight. Keep calm. Don't f*cking swing. Bait them back if you can, but make sure everyone else can see that they went for it first. If you can't, don't say a damn thing. They'll get mad but if they're smart they'll walk off. Fighting outside of the ring is a last resort."

"Got it," Izuku says, hating the very fact that he understands why he has to live like that.

"I don't like it either," Miruko admits. "f*ck, nobody would. But you don't have the clout to go around making noise yet. When you're older and more established you'll be able to bite back, but right now you gotta bob and weave. Let 'em make themselves look like idiots for trying to rile up a stone wall."

Izuku hums and shifts in the sand. "Alright," he says. "I'll try. I… don't exactly like UA so far, but my friends are there and it's UA. All Might's school. And I don't think anywhere else would take on a Quirkless kid."

"You're fine," Miruko says, roughly fluffing his hair. "You just gotta be smart about your situation. Before people thought you were weak because you've got now power. But now they'll think you're bitter and hateful, and therefore hateable. Keep calm and keep on. And don't lose that spunk, either. It’d be a shame if UA ironed out that chip on your shoulder."

Izuku smirks. "That metaphor doesn't make sense."

"I will f*ck your mom out of spite."

"Sure. If you can look her in the eyes for more than half a second first, I say go for it."

"f*ck you, kid. f*ck you."

[x]

The train to school the next morning is quiet. Izuku touches up on some literature homework and listens to some music while Tokage shamelessly sleeps and Tetsutetsu looks at his phone. They walk through the gates of U.A without incident and head for their homeroom. Class 1-A is half full when they get there, and Izuku curses his luck because it's everyone who doesn't like him. Bakugo, that blue haired guy with glasses—Iida, he remembers—the five people he got 'expelled' and Asui, who's not really on the list of people he feels strongly about one way or the other but the way she stares at him and then looks at Bakugo with marked interest kind of gets on his nerves.

Speaking of Bakugo, he's completely quiet. That's not normally a bad thing—he keeps to himself most of the time—but he's sitting up straight. His tie is actually done right. His pants don't sag. He's still glaring at everything in sight, but it feels less aggressive. But the difference is like that between a great white shark and a tiger shark. Ones smaller, sure, but Izuku does not want to be in a pool with either one. So he sits on Tokage's desk, casually resting his feet on Tetsutetsu's. Iida looks at him like he's a blight on modern society but doesn't say anything. Izuku tries not to feel smug. They might hate him, but he's at least respected a little.

Respected, but also feared. Izuku's good mood dips when he catches the eye of one of the girls who got 'expelled'. Izuku thinks her name is Jira, or something. He didn't watch her battle trial since it was when he was in the medical wing with Bakugo, but she seems alright. She just clearly doesn't think the same about him since she glares at him. Izuku, not being one to back down, holds her stare steadily. She breaks after a moment and continues to doodle random things in her notebook. Izuku's eyes wander a little and he finds that another person has been staring at him.

At least, he thinks they have. Hagakure is a little hard to read since she's invisible, but her body is angled towards him, and she sort of freezes when he looks at her. Izuku co*cks his head to the side in a silent question. Instead of answering, Hagakure quickly looks in the opposite direction of him. Izuku sighs and drums his fingers on Tokage's desk.

Perfect. Day three of class and he's already being treated like a bully. Or rather, how a bully should be treated. Bakugo's still sitting pretty in the corner, not dealing with the consequences of his actions because he's a lucky bastard, while Izuku's being glared at and flinched away from like he's some kind of hostile animal. Izuku usually tries to hide his bitterness when he's not in the privacy of his own friend group, but he can't help but glare at Bakugo. Which gets him another dirty look from Iida because the universe and everyone he didn't befriend before school started hates him.

It only gets worse when more people start to trickle in. Most of the class gathers around Bakugo's desk, asking if he's alright and how his treatment went. He tells them to f*ck off, of course, but no one cares. Izuku tries not to pop a vein as one of the guys laughs at Bakugo's insults like they're old buddies.

Did they not see how Izuku was about to be f*cking murdered mid spar? Did they forget about how Bakugo was about to bring the whole building down with a bloodthirsty smile on his face? They must've, because that's the only option that makes sense here.

Izuku's used to the world's unfairness. He expected some pushback and hardship at U.A. But he didn't expect his classmates to be total idiots. Does Principal Nedzu fast track irrational fools into the hero program? It certainly looks like it.

It's a relief when Aizawa walks in, as funny as that is to think. The man just sucks all the life out of the room with his tired eyes and uncaring slump. Izuku almost wants to thank him for it. Almost.

"In your seats," Aizawa says, focusing on each student individually for a moment. There's a period of dead, unmoving silences. "Today."

Everyone rushes to move at once, shoving past each other in an attempt to sit down as fast as possible. But not Izuku. He slowly and deliberately walks to his desk behind Bakugo, maintaining eye contact with Aizawa the whole time. It's only when he gets to his seat that he looks away from Aizawa, instead looking Iida right in the eye as he sits down and puts his feet on his desk. Watching the other boy's soul leave his body adds years onto Izuku's life.

"All Might was impressed with your battles yesterday," Aizawa says. "That means you're all taking this school very seriously, which is good. What isn't good is that I wasn't impressed."

The entire room seems to take in a deep breath, ready for another round of expulsions. One person in the back coughs, and Aizawa's eyes flick over to them. They freeze like keeping perfectly still will make them a less desirable target. It must work because Aizawa looks away from them in favor of looking at the class as a whole.

"Todoroki," the man says, causing a boy with red and white hair to look up from the back of the room. "You placed second in the recommendation exam. Your father is Endeavor, one of this school's most famed alumni. And yet you lost to Tetsutetsu and Ibara. Why?" The boy doesn't answer. Aizawa looks over his shoulder and then down at his wrist. "Homeroom is only forty-five minutes. I want to get through everyone. Hurry it up."

"I misjudged my opponents," Todoroki says, spitting the words out like they're poison.

Aizawa arches an eyebrow. "That's an understatement. You went into that fight expecting an easy win. You thought you could carry your team to victory. You froze that building with no care for your teammate, gloated in front of your enemy, and didn't even make sure he was completely incapacitated per the rules of the exercise. Consider that concussion you got a lesson in keeping your ego in check. Hagakure."

The invisible girl flinches as Aizawa's eyes land on her. His expression does not soften at all.

"Your performance was also lacking, though given the actions of your teammate, it is slightly excusable. The next time you're working in a group, assert yourself. Make sure they listen. And don't stop fighting until it's over. UA doesn't have time for people who give up. Tetsutetsu, Ibara," Aizawa says, not even pausing for Hagakure's meek 'Yes, sir.' "Good work, you two. Your group was one of the few I was actually satisfied with. Quick thinking, solid planning, lots of communication. All of you should learn from them."

"Tokage," Aizawa says, looking at her cheeky pointed smile with tired distaste. "You are a good fighter. You should have ended that match within the minute you found the bomb. But you didn't because you were going along with Midoriya's little grudge. Don't. Ever. Do. That. Again."

Tokage's smile drops and her eyes darken. "Don't glare at me like that. Encouraging hostile training is grounds for expulsion. We do not tolerate hateful fighting here. You had a chance to learn and grow but you wasted it. Midoriya."

Izuku looks Aizawa in the eyes, already prepared for a verbal lashing. "You have one week of cleaning duty. I don't care about you and Bakugo's obvious history. You keep that stuff out of training and out of my school, understand?" Izuku nods just the smallest amount. "You better, because if you use an exercise as an opportunity to get even, you're out. Fight Bakugo to the death in a Walmart parking lot at two A.M. for all I care. Just not in UA.”

"Bakugo," Aizawa continues. Izuku shifts in his seat, curious as to how it'll play out. Bakugo seems to think that he knows what's about to happen since he sits up in his seat and tilts his head. Izuku just knows he's smiling co*ckily. "You should be expelled."

"The f*ck?"

"You heard me. Those gauntlets were given to you with the understanding that you knew what they could do. As a UA student, you're expected to be able to judge when an attack is too much. You put lives in danger with that stunt you pulled, and as such, your gauntlets are suspended."

"Deku f*cking tased me and pulled the other pin! He broke my f*cking arms!"

"Midoriya had no means of defense against that attack," Aizawa says coldly. "You forced an animal into a corner and now you're whining that you got bit. You broke your own arms. You let your petty grudge get the better of you. You pulled that pin. You are responsible for your punishments. Stop crying and start acting like a hero, because yesterday? You weren't one in the slightest."

Bakugo keeps silent, but his hands start to smoke and shake. A low growl comes from the back of his throat. Izuku smirks, satisfied. Aizawa, however, isn't done. He turns to look at the entire class, a scowl etched into his face.

"Here's a little lesson for you all, because if you learned it the hard way, people would die. Buildings aren't invincible. They will come down if you aren't careful. All Might had to hold up one of them from yesterday after that explosion. If any other teacher were there instead of him, we would be four students short." The class holds their silence. Aizawa continues, "You all have the power to hurt. You all have the power to kill. But you're here to learn how to save. As a hero school, UA will help you with that. But we can't teach you basic human decency and rational thought. What Bakugo did yesterday was disgusting in every sense of the word. He is not ready for this course. As such, he'll be suspended for three weeks."

"You can't f*cking do that!"

"Yes I can," Aizawa says calmly. "I can do or say whatever I want so long as it's legal or approved by Nedzu. And I say that you're not part of the hero course anymore. Now get the f*ck out of my classroom."

Bakugo storms out in a full on temper tantrum. The class watches him with mixed emotions. Izuku, Toakge, and Tetsutetsu are satisfied. A few are mad. Most are in shock. Aizawa is different.

"Jiro…"

The rest of homeroom passes with Aizawa going over the battle trials. No one says a word other than him, and when he leaves, it stays silent. No one raises their hands for Math, English, Literature, History, or Science. The room is quiet when they're on break. It's even silent on the way to lunch, and the chatter of the cafeteria feels alien because of it. Izuku gets his food and sits with his friends, still trying to unpack everything, but he doesn't get the chance to.

A lunch tray slams down in front of him. The stew sloshes around in its bowl, and the rice jumps. Izuku looks upward to see empty space. Hagakure looks down at him. Or at least he thinks she does. It's hard to tell, but he gets the feeling that she's serious.

"Hang out with me," she says, full of conviction.

"Huh?" Izuku asks, and she flinches. He feels bad.

"S-sorry, I'll—"

"You can sit here," Izuku says, trying to be as nonthreatening as possible, which is hard because he's not used to being a threat in the first place. "And I guess you can follow us around. But… why?"

The collar of Hagakure's uniform shifts upward as she straightens her posture. "I… I was really meek yesterday. I couldn't fight. I couldn't stick up for myself. I hate it. I won't want to be a doormat, and, well…"

"I'm Quirkless."

"And not a doormat," Hagakure agrees. "I just figured that if you can do… help me not be a bitch anymore!"

Izuku laughs, loud and from his belly. He stands up and grabs Hagakure's hand in a shake. He smiles, bright and fierce like a predator. She flinches a little, but forces herself to keep strong. Izuku can't really tell, but he's pretty sure she's got a grin to match.

Notes:

I'm going for the five man band trope for this, I think. Kudos to you if you can figure out who #5 will be. Anyways, since I made Aizawa pretty ruthless in earlier chapters, I have to keep it up. Therefore he actually does something about Bakugo. We won't be seeing him for a while, if I'm honest. Not until the Sports Festival, anyway. Hagakure will get more time to shine next chapter. I hope you enjoyed. Cheers!

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Chapter 14

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"You're a sad*st."

Izuku pauses his pull ups, tilting his head to the side so he can get a look at Hagakure, who's slouched over on a bench, nursing a large water bottle. It's hard to tell how tired she is exactly, but sweat glistens on her invisible skin, and the rise and fall of her chest is shaky as shown by her shirt. Izuku has some sympathy since he went through the same thing, but he was an idiot for not working out sooner, and Hagakure is also an idiot for the same reason. Pity won't help her get better—it didn't for him and hasn't for anyone else ever—encouragement will.

"sad*st implies that I'm getting off to your struggling," Izuku says, pulling on the bar. He ignores the way his lats scream in pain. "I'm not. I just want to help you."

"There are nicer ways for you to do it, though," Hagakure says.

"You don't want to be nice."

She sighs and stands. "Fair enough. What next? This is already way worse than the gymnastics I did back in middle and elementary school."

"Do you know how to fight?"

"I passed the entrance exams."

"You also completely choaked the battle trial." Izuku whinces at the same time Hagakure does. "Sorry, that was—"

"No, no, you're right," she says. "I… I want to get better, and you agreed to help me. It's just…"

"Hard to realize how unprepared you are," Izuku says. "Though to be fair you're not too bad. You're pretty flexible and decently strong for you size. And you passed. Somehow."

Hagakure laughs a little. "I drew a face on a sheet of paper and used it to get the robots to hit each other. But halfway through I found out that the robots had off switches, so I just ran around hitting those until the buzzer."

"The robots… had off switches? " Izuku asks, feeling his blood start to heat up.

"Uh, yeah. You didn't find those?"

"Nope," Izuku says, stiff as a board.

"T-then how did you pass?"

"Let's not focus on that right now," Izuku says, thinking of how hard he had to work when there were f*cking off switches. And how much he had to pay for the taser. "You're pretty good at what you do, right? I'm guess you focused on stealth and getting into right spots."

"Yeah, also I can kinda control the amount of air I redact, so I've been practicing on blinding people. It's slowing going, though, since my parents aren't exactly willing targets."

"We'll touch on that later," Izuku says, totally impressed and annoyed because Hagakure has a damn good Quirk and knows how to use it, but just calling it Invisibility is a crime against Qurik classification. "For now I'll show the basics and some of my moves. Make a fist." Izuku realizes his mistake the second he makes it.

"Uh, I have gloves?" Hagakure says, gesturing to her gym bag. Or at least Izuku things she is. It's hard to tell because her top is sleeveless.

"Yeah, get them."

It takes a moment, but she comes back wearing a pair of white cloth gloves. She curls her fingers up and rests her thumb on her index finger. "Like this?"

"No. Is it alright if I touch your arm?"

"Sure."

"You want it to be like this," Izuku says, gently moving her thumb so it's no longer tucked inside of her curled fingers. Then he carefully aligns her wrist with the rest of her arm. He lets her hold the position and holds up a fist of his own to show. "The thumb goes under, not in. If you have it tucked inside of your fingers, it might get crushed when you hit something. The last thing you want is a broken thumb. And you hit with your knuckles, always. If you make contact with your fingers, you could break them, too."

"I don't think I could hit that hard," Hagakure says, taking a test jab.

"You'd be surprised," Izuku says, walking over to a punching bag and gesturing for her to follow. "We're both pretty small, but we still have weight and muscles. We—and especially you 'cause, y'know—have to use what we've got more efficiently. I've broken noses and knocked people out before."

"How?" Hagakure pokes Izuku's arm. "Sure, you work out, but like… you're not buff."

"You're thinking that I only use my arms to punch. I don't. Watch." Izuku sinks down into a boxing stance and jabs at the punching bag. Since he only used his right arm to strike, it barely sways. Once he's sure Hagakure understands that it wasn't an impressive punch, Izuku shifts a little, and punches the bag again. This time, it swings back a half meter.

"Okay, explain," Hagakure demands. "Did you intentionally pull the first one so the second would look better?"

"I mean, yeah, but not like you're thinking. With the first one, I just swung my arm. On the second one, I put everything into it. Legs, back, hips, arms, and even my own body weight. I should actually probably wrap my wrists if I'm gonna keep hitting like that," Izuku says, shaking out his hand.

"So I have to lean into the punch?"

"Kinda. Why don't you just watch me again and they try to do what I do."

It takes a while, but Hagakure gets it down by the time they have to leave. She's actually really good about keeping her cool. Izuku remembers feeling frustrated about not getting it and how much he struggled with keeping focused when he first started out. But Hagakure takes every little adjustment he has her make easily even though she's worn out and has sore muscles.

Once it's almost time for them to go, Izuku takes her on a quick run to cool down, and heads with her to the train station.

"Think you wanna keep going tomorrow?" Izuku asks as they step out the door.

"Let's see how school goes and weather or not I can walk tomorrow morning," Hagakure says. "But I do want to keep learning and working out."

"Take it at your own pace," Izuku advises. "We're already in UA. You don't need to kill yourself with workouts. Uh, Tokage, Tesutesu, and I all lift and spar here everyday after school. Just tag along with us whenever."

"Thanks," she says. "I'll see you… oh, god, in a few hours. We still have school. "

"Yeah," Izuku says, smirking a little. "Just sleep through homeroom and lunch. You'll be good."

"But that's so disrespectful!"

"Aizawa doesn't respect us. Why should we respect him?"

"I… yeah, that's fair."

[x]

Any hope of a normal, sane day of school is thrown out the window as soon as Izuku sees the mob of reporters in front of the U.A gates.

"... This feels like it should be illegal," Tokage says, standing on her toes to try and see over the crowd. Izuku watches a few cameras flash and a woman try to shove her microphone in the face of some poor Gen Ed student. "Like, they're impeding students. That's a crime, right?"

"Not if they haven't been arrested yet," Tesutesu points out. "It's UA. A school by heroes, for heroes. If what they were doing was illegal, they'd be in a cell by now. Or twenty cells. There's a lot of them."

"Yeah, I'm not dealing with that," Izuku says, slipping off his backpack and blazer.

"We're going to have to," Toakge says. "Unless you wanna scale the wall."

Izuku raises an eyebrow. "Good idea, human stepladder."

"What?" Tokage asks. Behind her, Tesutesu starts to laugh.

They make it over the wall with only a few close calls. Izuku boosts Tesutesu, who boosts Tokage, who splits into a few parts for them to be hauled up on. Once they're all on top, Toakge lets her parts fall, Tesutesu changes into steel and jumps off, and Izuku just kinda stands on top, awkwardly straddling the barbed wire. School security, apparently, is taken very seriously, but not serious enough to stop them from breaking in.

"If you do a flip I'll give you ten thousand yen!" Toakge calls, cupping her hands around her mouth. "You gotta stick the landing, though."

"I don't care what ya do as long as it's badass!" Tesutesu echoes.

Izuku smiles, hovering a foot over the ten or so meter drop. "Yeah, totally. I'll jump, flip, and land… on my… feet…"

Do a flip! I'll give you ten grand!

Take a swan dive offa r—

"No!" Izuku says, stepping back.

"Dude, careful! You'll fall!"

But it's already too late. Izuku's pants catch on the barbed wire, and as he tries to step, he feels his leg jolt to a stop. It sends him off balance, and he spills over the edge. Time seems to slow, and he squeezes his eyes shut, bracing for the end, or pain, or something. But it never comes. Instead, a tight cord wraps around his torso, and his fall slows. He hits the ground but only with enough force to daze him. Izuku rolls and tries to stand, but he's bound up tight in something. He looks up and into the eyes of Aizawa, who's tired and utterly pissed.

"Detention, two weeks. You and your friends. You're already tardy so hurry it up."

"Bullsh*t," Tokage mutters from somewhere.

"Do you want it to be three?" Aizawa asks.

"I don't have anything better to do," Tesutesu says, shrugging.

"Good. It's four weeks now. I'll be seeing you three for a month." Aizawa yanks on the coard and Izuku spills out of it like a newborn fawn. He stands and glares at the back of Aizawa as the man starts to walk away.

"What were we supposed to do?" he asks. "Walk through that pile of people and get swarmed?"

"That's five weeks now."

"Bullsh*t!" Toakge says, more forcefully this time.

"Six. Say another word and it's suspension."

Tokage mouths a 'f*ck you' as Tesutesu helps Izuku up. "You good, man?" the other boy asks.

"Fine," Izuku says, brushing off his pants and grimacing at the massive tear in his right pants leg. "Nothing's broken."

"Yeah," Tesutesu says, looking around at anything but Izuku. "Uh. What was the deal up there? You kinda… I dunno. It was just weird."

"It's nothing," Izuku says, squaring his shoulders and leaving no room for argument. "Let's just get to class. I don't want to get into even deeper trouble."

They leave him be, which is nice. But Izuku catches the way they exchange glances in obvious preparation to confront him later, which isn't. But he doesn't want to focus on that right now or anything pertaining to the… his fall he decides to call it. Izuku just wants to sweep it all under the rug and pretend it never happened. He gets his chance when he walks into class.

"I wanna be the rep! C'mon, I'd be great at it!"

"No, it should totally be me!"

"I'm better, and more popular!"

"Dude, what? It's the fourth day of school. No one's popular yet!"

"And somehow I'm more well liked than you! Mister Aizawa, make me the class rep?"

"Okay, what's going on?" Izuku asks from the doorway. Immediately, everyone clams up and watches him like he's about to explode. Izuku tries not to get mad or annoyed. "I'm not going to hurt any of you," he says, palm itching to slam into his face.

"Like you could," one of the boys—who has grapes for hair for some reason—mutters.

"Okay, I see where this is going to go," Izuku says. He points to the grape boy. "I will kick your ass any time, any day. That is not a threat, I'm just not going to deal with your heckling. Now could someone please tell me—and them," he points to his friends, "what's going on."

"We're trying to figure out who the class representatives are," Hagakure speaks up. "Aizawa kinda… he just told us to figure it out and fell asleep."

"Okay. Cool. Now carry on yelling."

And they do. For whatever reason, they just go right back to screaming at each other, and Izuku sits down on top of Tokage's desk and watches. He nods to Hagakure when she looks his way, and smiles when he sees Iida's annoyed expression.

"f*cking hell, you're like some kind of vengeful god to them," Tokage says, leaning back in her seat.

"I mean, he did hospitalize a guy," Tesutesu says.

"In self defense."

"Yeah, and that should be the end of it. But, uh… people are dumb." Tesutesu gets out his school supplies like he's about to take notes, even though the next class won't start for a half hour. "They just focus on the fact that you, someone who's shown that he's not afraid to throw his weight around, gravely hurt a guy who was going slightly overboard in a spar."

"Slightly overboard is the understatement of the century," Izuku scoffs.

"Not when they were watching live in the classroom." Tesutesu propps his chin on one of his palms. "They only saw Bakugo pull the pin, some smoke, and then Bakugo on the ground all f*cked up with you standing over him looking real angry. They don't know you well enough to get your deal, and for the time being they don't want to get to know you because you're scary."

"Great," Izuku says. "I have to play the villain because I decided to fight back against the bullsh*t people have been throwing at me. Just a perfect Thursday."

"Could be worse," Toakge says. "You could be in mortal peril… sh*t, that was badly timed. Uh, you could be drowning?"

"Thanks," Izuku says. "I could be drowning. Just peachy."

"Alright, this is enough!" Iida slams his hand into his desk, making the whole class jump. "Let's just put it to a vote! That way we can get everything over and done with."

"Yeah, okay, glasses, but we barely know each other," the girl Izuku remembers as Jiro says. "We'll only vote for ourselves."

"Then if someone gets more than one vote, they deserve to be the rep," Iida argues.

"Fair enough."

"Sure, I guess."

"Whatever."

"Perfect! Everyone get some paper! In case you don't know names yet, refer to the seating chart on Mister Aizawa's podium."

Izuku votes for Ibara, mostly for the hell of it but also because she seems like she has her head screwed on right. He considers voting for Tokage or Tesutesu, but he really doesn't want to know what stuff they'd pull if elected. But other than that, he's fine with anyone being the rep. Just as long as it's not…

"Midoriya Izuku, five votes, Ibara Shiozaki, three votes!"

"What the f*ck?" Izuku says, along with a good chunk of the rest of the class.

"That's the final vote," Iida says, pushing up his glasses. His left eye twitches a little, which is a small bit of catharsis for an otherwise awful situation.

"I didn't even vote for myself! How did this happen?"

"I voted for you!" Toakge says shamelessly.

Tesutesu nods. "Me too!"

"I did," Hagakure says, quieter than the other two.

"Okay," Izuku says, sweeping his eyes over the room. "Who else?" No one speaks up. "Great, perfect. Who wants it? Because I definitely don't."

Iida's hand shoots towards the ceiling. "I think that I—"

"Nevermind. Iida, as class rep I order you to sit down."

"I—that's not how it works!"

"Could you all keep quiet for ten minutes!? " Aizawa's voice shocks everyone into silence as the man rises out of his sleeping bag. He glares at each of them in turn, slurping down a packet of jelly. "Better. Midoriya, you're the rep. Ibara, you're the vice rep. Both of you get up here and address the class."

They meet at the podium and Izuku lets Ibara go first. She's proper enough to bow before speaking, and laces her fingers as she rests her hands against her navel. "Hello. I am Ibara Shiozaki. Thank you to those who voted for me. I hope that I can get to know you all so that I may better represent and lead you in future events."

"Good," Aizawa says. "Midoriya, go."

"I'm Midoriya, I hate each and every one of you that voted for me, and I'll be representing you in whatever this school thinks needs student representation for," Izuku says, going back and forth between looking at Iida and Aizawa to see who gets more annoyed.

"Good enough." Aizawa bends down and tucks his sleeping bag under his arm. "You two have a meeting after school today for rep stuff. It's in here. Don't skip or you're expelled. All of you, sit down and don't make noise until Mic gets here. And for the love of all the things you hold dear, learn how to argue without waking me up."

With that, Aizawa slinks out of the door, and everyone sits in cold silence. Eventually, real classes start. They're fine. Tense and unfun, but not unbearable. Izuku doesn't really think much about the day as it goes by. Even as the reporters he saw that morning break in and scare everyone to death, he remains calm and distant. Of course, he doesn't know that tomorrow will bring a rather rude awakening.

Notes:

The USJ is next, obviously. Other than that, I've got nothing. I hoped you liked it. Cheers!
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Chapter 15

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Detention sucks. Izuku spends a few hours mopping floors, scraping gum off of the undersides of desks, and grading papers from the General Studies course. And when he's done paying his dues for his stunt in battle training, he has to serve the time for hopping over the wall. By cleaning it with a toothbrush. And he's not even allowed to be with his friends. Aizawa just hands him a brush and a bucket of soapy water and tells him to get to work before walking off with Toakge and Tesutesu.

It's annoying and repetitive beyond belief, but Izuku gradually starts to enjoy rage-cleaning the wall. Maybe if he scrubs hard enough, the toothbrush will break and he'll get to go home early. The thought is enough to make him work harder, and even eventually breaks a sweat. Cleaning a wall with a toothbrush. It's almost funny, and it probably would be, if his uniform didn't feel like a furnace and sweat wasn't running down his back in droves.

Eventually he takes the blazer, tie, and button show shirt off. He rolls his pants up to his mid calves and untucks his undershirt. It helps a little, but it's still awful. And he stinks to high hell. "Stupid puberty," he mutters, dunking the brush back in the water and brining it up to a crack in the bricks. "Stupid Aizawa. I could be lifting right now. Or running. Or sparring. What's so bad about hopping a wall, anyways? I've got my ID. I'm wearing the uniform. He just wanted to mess with me."

"Hello there!"

Izuku jumps, making a rather undignified squak as he drops the toothbrush and kicks the water bucket over. Swearing, he rushes to pick it back up, but a skinny pair of hands beats him to it.

"My bad, my boy." Izuku looks up, and then looks even more up because the person speaking is over two meters tall. And they look like a skeleton. A skeleton with eyes and skin and hair, but still a skeleton. "I shouldn't have startled you," the skeleton continues. "Here, I think I have more water for the bucket."

"Sure," Izuku says, watching the skeleton reach into one of the pockets of his baggy suit. They pull out a water bottle, uncap it, and pour the contents into the bucket. "Thanks?"

"You're welcome!" The skeleton bends down to pick up the toothbrush and hands it over. "May I sit here?"

"You'll get wet."

The skeleton chuckles. "I mean near here. I'm quite tired and feel like resting for a moment."

"It's a free country."

"Perhaps, but it's nice to be polite."

"You can sit," Izuku says, gesturing to the wall. "I'll just be here. Cleaning."

"Of course." The skeleton sits down against the wall and looks at Izuku with a curious yet fond expression. "I don't think these have been properly cleaned since I was a young man attending," he reminisces.

"I can tell," Izuku says, scrubbing away at a rather stubborn spot of sludge on the wall. "I'm surprised no one else has gotten this punishment in that time. They're absolutely filthy."

"Ah, so it is a punishment," the skeleton says, bemused. "I did think it was weird for a teenager to stay after school cleaning a wall. May I ask what you got in trouble for?"

"You know those reporters that broke in at lunch?" Izuku asks.

"It's hard not to."

"Yeah, well, they were here this morning right in front of the gate. I didn't want to go through them so me and my friends hopped the fence. My teacher saw us and now we'll be spending a month and a half cleaning the wall."

"Hmm. A month and a half you say? That's rather harsh, even for hopping the wall."

"It started out as two weeks, but we talked back."

"I see," the man says. "That would do it. Perhaps you should learn to keep quiet? It's wrong for your voice to be suppressed, but teachers deserve some respect. Talking back isn't advisable."

"Aizawa hasn't done anything to earn any more respect than I'd give my shoes," Izuku says. "And respectfully, sir, I've gone my whole life being told to sit down and shut up. I was a doormat all of elementary and middle school. I'm done being a weak willed wimp, and if I have to scrub this wall for it? I'll gladly keep my dignity and self worth and make this thing shine."

The skeleton nods, understanding. "There's other students along the wall, you said?"

"Ye—" Izuku's cut off by his ringtone. "Hold on one second," he says, pulling the device out of his pocket and hitting accept. "What's up?"

"Where the f*ck are you sh*ts?" the voice of Miruko screams into his ear. "I've been waiting for ten f*cking minutes at the beach and you're all no shows."

"We all got detention over some bullsh*t," Izuku says. "UA's a madhouse. I'm cleaning the wall for hopping over it and giving my teacher lip."

"That's bullsh*t."

"I'm glad someone agrees."

"What time will you be done?"

"I dunno, in a few hours? Aizawa's a hardass."

"Text me when you're done. If you're too tired, we're not doing anything tonight."

"It's not that labor intensive. It just sucks."

"I can f*ckin' imagine. See you 'round."

"Yeah, give my ma a hug for me."

"f*ck you."

"f*ck you, too."

"Another friend of yours?" the skeleton asked, an amused smile on his face.

"My teacher," Izuku corrects.

"She's had quite the influence on you," the man observes.

"I wouldn't be worth a damn without her," Izuku says.

"I see. Well, I best be going." Thean stands and waves to Izuku even though they're two meters apart. "Perhaps I'll talk to your friends along the wall. If they're as interesting as you, I'll be plenty entertained today."

"Yeah," Izuku says. "See you?"

Thean chuckles. "Oh, we'll meet again. I'm sure of it."

Izuku watches him leave, trying to figure out if he's really it if Tokage slipped something in his lunch. Shrugging, he returns to scrubbing the wall. The thing's not going to clean itself, and he wants to have some progress when Aizawa comes back. Maybe that way he can go home and actually do something productive. He snorts. Yeah, right. With his luck, he'll be here forever.

[x]

The next day brings more awkward tension in homeroom. Izuku doesn't even bother with trying to hide the fact that he doesn't care and sits down on Toakge's desk like usual. They talk about how much of a pain it was to scrub the wall, and about sparing the previous night. Tesutesu and Hagakure join them, and they swap ideas for new moves to try out. Everything's fine. Until Aizawa walks in.

"We're going on a field trip," he says, pointing to the door. "Go to the lockers and put your gear on. Midoriya, Ibara, make sure everyone's outside by the bus. I'm not doing a headcount."

With a sarcastic salute, Izuku leads the walk out of the room, noting how everyone but his friends keeps a few paces away at all times. He's the first one into the boy's locker room, and the first to change, but he waits. The last thing he wears is for someone to goof off and make him look bad for 'failing to do his duty' or whatever Aizawa can come up with on the spot. He talks with Tesutesu as everyone changes, and keeps a tally of who walks out. Eventually it's just him, Tesutesu, and the grape boy who insulted him yesterday. Izuku looks at him and arches an eyebrow. The boy silently hurries out.

Ibara is already outside with the rest of the class, and upon seeing him she has everyone load up into the bus. Which is self driving, because of course it is. U.A can afford self driving vehicles but can't make sure it's teachers aren't jackasses. It makes total sense.

He's joking of course, but he's still in a sour mood as he sits down next to Tesutesu on the bus. People start to chat around him, but it ends the moment Aizawa steps on. The man rakes his eyes over the rows of seats and sits in the front. His head droops down and he falls asleep. Tentatively, people begin to speak again. Izuku, however, keeps quiet.

When they get to their destination, Izuku is the last one off the bus. He, like everyone else, has a flash of confusion upon seeing the golden letters on the massive structure before him.

"No, it's not Universal Studios Japan," Aizawa says, looking like he wants a few liters of coffee. "It's the Unforeseen Simulation Joint."

"Unforseen what?" Izuku finds himself asking. "Unforeseen villains? Unforeseen movie sequels? Unforeseen idiots? Unfores—"

"Disasters." Aizawa glares at Izuku, who keeps a straight face. He's got six weeks of detention. What's one more? "We're dealing with natural disasters today. You'd have gotten the information inside if you hadn't been fooling around out here. You're all testing my patience as it is, so hurry it up and get in there."

The doors can't open fast enough. The whole class practically pushes each other aside to try and get in first, to the point where it's probably a safety hazard. Once the last person steps foot inside the building, Izuku lets himself get a good look at the USJ. It's huge. Like, the size of his district, huge. There are mini domes inside of the big dome, and even those can fit twenty or so of his apartment building in them. And it's obvious that it's all made for rescue training. Shipwrecks, an avalanche, collapsed buildings, and landslides are just the start of what he can see. The whole class could spend days here and not see everything m

"Attention everyone!" A person in a puffy space suit walks up the stairs leading to the entrance, waving their hands high above their helmet. "Welcome to the Unforeseen S—"

"They already know, Thirteen," Aizawa says, walking through the crowd of students to speak with the other hero. He casts a quick glance back before looking forwards again. "Where the hell is All Might? He's supposed to be here."

"Ah, about that." Thirteen shifts from foot to foot, their helmet angled down. They hold up four fingers and slowly raise and lower their fifth. "He had a busy morning. He called to tell me that he really wanted to come, but wouldn't be able to be here the whole time if he did. He'd rather use his time to see the third years' combat trials."

Aizawa sighs. "Of course. That's just like him. Alright, you lot, get ready for a lot of listening. Thirteen?"

"Of course!" The other hero steps in front of the class and spreads their arms wide. "Hello! I am the Space Hero, Thirteen! I am a part time teacher here at UA, and I specialize in rescue. I designed and built this place so that young heroes would have a place to practice their rescue tactics. Could anyone tell me what most heroes are unprepared for in the field?"

"Well, it's gotta be rescues, right?" one of the girls says. Izuku can't remember her name but she has pink skin. "We're kinda here to learn about them, so…"

"You are correct!" Thirteen praises. "Yes, most heroes are villain response specialists, and when a disaster happens, or if a rescue is needed, they often find themselves unprepared for the situation. And as a result, people can often get hurt.

"It's an unfun fact that your Quirks can be used to harm," Thirteen continues. "You saw that in All Might's battle training. How easily you can gravely injure or even kill. But Quirks are tools. In Aizawa's exam, you saw how your powers can be used in all sorts of situations. And today, you'll learn how to use your Quirks as tools for saving a life. Please pay careful attention and think about what it means to be able to use your power for good. Are we ready?"

"Oh yeah!"

"Bring it!"

"Nice speech, teach!"

"When can we—"

"No cheering," Aizawa interjects. "We're on a schedule, I don't want to get behind. Let's hurry up and—huh?"

Izuku follows the man's line of sight down the steps and into the central courtyard below. A tiny purple speck sticks out against the tan of the ground. It starts to grow larger and larger. After a moment, a figure steps out of it. More follow, and several other purple portals appear. Because that's what they are. Portals. The USJ is being broken into, and from the way Aizawa grimly pushes a pair of goggles over his eyes and grabs the scarf around his neck, the people below are villains.

"Thirteen, protect the students," Aizawa orders. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a phone. "Everyone try to call for help and run to the exit. The bus should start itself. I'll hold them off."

"There's at least fifty down there," Izuku remarks. "Unless you secretly have a stupid powerful Quirk, you're not gonna last against them."

Aizawa turns to him and smirks. His eyes glow red for just a moment. "No UA graduate is a one trick pony." But as Eraserhead leaps down the stairs and binds three villains at once, Izuku can't help but think that he's still right.

"C'mon, let's go," Tokage says, pulling on his shoulder. "I don't want to get caught up here, and I don't want you to, either." Beside her, Tesutesu and Hagakure agree. Izuku can't bring himself to tear his eyes from the hero fighting below.

"There's at least two hundred of them down there," Izuku says. "Eraserhead is an ambush predator. He waits for the right moment, canceles the Quirks of his prey, and then attacks while they're confused. He's going loose down there."

"He's a pro," Tesutesu says.

Izuku shakes his head. "It doesn't matter. One on hundreds is a death sentence."

"Yeah, well, you hate him," Tokage says, pulling harder on Izuku's arm. "And he chose to go down there. So let's get the f*ck out while we still have—"

"Greetings, we are the League of Villains." Izuku finally brings himself to tear his eyes away from Aizawa and turns around. A smokey mass of purple and black surrounds the rest of the class, blocking the exit and sucking the light from the air. "Unfortunately for you, your exit is not permitted at this time. Please wait until All Might arrives. Then you may leave or stay to watch his demise."

"Run," Izuku says.

"What?"

"f*cking run!" Tokage agrees, starting to sprint away from both the stairs and the exit. Izuku and the rest follow, unwilling to look back. It's a mistake that will cost them dearly.

"Ah, stragglers. You are UA's golden eggs, after all." The smoke appears in front of them, suffocating and dangerous. "It doesn't surprise me that some of you would be runners."

The smoke envelopes Izuku, and he desperately cries out for his friends. He feels the warmth of someone's fingers brush against his, but it's gone in an instant. Replacing it is nothing but cold. He travels through the portal for what feels like minutes, struggling to breathe.

When he falls out of it, the warmth and light surprise him. He falls for a few meters and hits the ground hard. He feels a sharp pain in his head, and his vision goes spotty. He lays there, unmoving. The grass tickles his face and neck, and the artificial lights warm his hair. Eventually, there's a few more screams, and other people land around him.

"I'm alive!"

"Shut up, of course you are."

"Lay off, we coulda died."

"Whatever. Are you two alright?"

"Yeah."

"I think my arm's broken!"

"That's a bruise."

"Oh thank god!"

Izuku groans and tries to get up. He fails and falls right back in his face.

"What was that?"

"A villain!"

"Where, where?"

"Shut up!" a voice says, getting closer. "It could be another student… there!"

Izuku hears a few sets of footsteps, and soon someone's trying to flip him over. "He's alive," someone says, making it sound like a bad thing. Izuku flutters his eyes open and is blinded by the light. He quickly adjusts, and when he does he nearly screams in anger.

"f*ck my life."

"Yeah," Jiro says, trading looks with Kamminari, Sero, and the grape haired boy, "we're not so happy about it either."

Notes:

The real fun next chapter. I said five man band? This is the one you're getting for now lol.
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Chapter 16

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Alright, let's go," Jiro says, standing up and brushing off her pant legs.

"Uh, we're training to be heroes," Sero says, looking at Izuku but quickly jerking his head away when he makes eye contact. "We can't just leave him there."

"No, no, she's got a point," Kaminari steps in. "He can fend for himself. He put that Bakugo guy on his ass."

"I can't believe you're actually thinking about leaving someone behind," Sero says. "It's… okay, I don't like him either but I don't want him to die."

"He'd do the same to us," the grape boy argues. "He did it the first day of class. What's to say he wouldn't throw us under the bus to save his skin again?"

"Mother f*cker, you're all dumb," Izuku says, startling all four of them. "I… I'm a classmate. Granted, I'm not exactly friendly to everyone but. Who on earth would leave a classmate to die?"

"You did it on day one," the grape boy mumbles.

"Yeah, to save my dream," Izuku says incredulously. "Don't tell me the rest of you wouldn't have called bullsh*t on Aizawa's rankings if you were at the bottom instead of me! I didn't want to boot a bunch of people out, but I do want to be a hero! Do you know how hard it is for someone like me to get in? Impossible, almost! But you four could've gone to any school you liked."

"Oh, so just because you're Quirkless means you get an easier time of it?" Jiro sneers.

"What? N—"

"Heroes don't shove other people down to push themselves up," Kaminari says. "You kicked us out on day one with no remorse. You shouldn't be here."

"Bitch, you threatened to leave me!" Izuku screams. "I'm concussed, bleeding from the head, and in what's probably a villain infested forest full of unstable ruins! You belong in a jail cell more than you belong in UA."

"You can hardly blame us for wanting to leave behind dead weight," the grape boy says. Izuku glares.

"Stand me up and I'll show you dead weight. "

"Okay, let's all take a deep breath and start from the top," Sero says. He offers a hand to Izuku who takes it, and quickly pulls him up. "We're all allies here. Fighting each other won't do us any good. I-I mean, there's probably villains in here, so…" he scratches the back of his neck and keeps a close eye on Izuku's balance. Izuku's thankful for it, because he definitely rattled his head a little.

" Villains , you say?"

"f*ck."

"sh*t."

"Dammit, man, you jinxed us!"

The villain laughs, which is horrifying because they can't see him. Instinctively, they form a tight defensive ring. Izuku rests a hand on his taser, sticking close to Sero because he's the only sane one. Everyone else readies their Quirks, shifting in fear and suspense. Izuku feels his heart rate pick up even more, and he tries to keep steady by breathing evenly. He's been in fights, and he's dealt with jitters before. But nothing like this. Even against Bakugo it wasn't this bad. He feels his knees start to shake, and his eyes move around frantically. Somewhere, out there in the mass of wood and stone, is someone who wants to kill him. Maybe even several of them. It's impossible to keep his composure.

"Peek a boo!"

A tentacle, steel grey and six centimeters thick wraps around the grape boy's ankles and drags him under the earth. Everyone screams. Izuku squeezes his taser. It doesn't hurt anyone, but it wastes some of the charge. Kaminari, though, completely shorts out. They have to dive away from him to avoid the sparks, and when he calms down, a dopey look appears on his face.

"Yaaaaayyy!"

"Want the hell?"

"His brain's too weak for his Quirk," Jiro says, barely understandable over her studer. "He turns into an idiot if he uses it too much."

"And he bitched about me being dead weight…"

"Want was Mineta! There's more important things to focus on," Sero yells, "like the fact that someone is dying down there!"

Izuku looks at the ground, head throbbing as he pulls himself up from the ground with a hunk of cracked stone. "I can't do anything about that," he says. The dirt around where they were standing with the grape boy was pulled is constantly shifting, rising and falling as muffled screams poke through. "Jiro, shove your jacks in the dirt and blast them out."

"What? Are you crazy? I could hurt them both!"

"So?" Izuku hauls himself to his feet, feeling the aching part of his forehead. There's a large lump, and his fingers come back bloody. "Who cares if he's hurt. Better deaf and dumb than dead."

Jiro glares but extends her jacks into the earth. She takes a deep breath and tenses her muscles. A massive boom kicks dirt up and makes Izuku's heart skip a beat. The dirt stops moving and settles. Izuku has a brief moment of doubt. Knocking the villain out is good, but how the hell are they going to dig the grape boy up?

"I'm alive!" the villain screams, breaking the surface. A blur of purple cuts through the air and nails Sero in the chest, knocking him over. Kaminari cheers, and the villain wails. He's big, nearing three meters, and has a long tail. But he's cupping his ears with his hands, stumbling around the area. Trees fall, and the rubble of the ruins start to crumble even more.

"Do something!" Jiro yells, scampering away from the villain.

"Sero!" Izuku screams, casting a look at him in hopes of using his tape as binding. But Sero is out cold, and the grape boy is trying to drag him to safety. "Hit him with another blast!" Izuku orders.

"And give all of us tinnitus?" Jiro scoffs. "I thought you were smart enough to want to be able to hear the villains!"

"Well what the f*ck can we do?" Izuku asks, backing away from the chaos. "We can't just run. He'll get better eventually. Once that happens we're screwed!"

"Tase him!" Jiro yells, joining him by Sero and the grape boy. "You have that thing for a reason. Use it!"

"Oh, so suddenly I'm worth a damn?" Izuku asks. "Right when you need me to save our asses you start valuing me and my skills."

"Are you really doing this? Right f*cking now!?"

"Yeah, I am! Because it's the only way we're going to have this conversation!"

"We met four days ago! You don't even know me!"

"And yet I know that you're insufferable. Pretty telling, huh?"

"Just tase the bastard already!"

Izuku mutters under his breath but takes a few ginger steps forward. He hears Jiro curse at him, and he can tell she's making some rather rude gestures at his back. All the yelling has gotten the jitters out of his system, and his nervousness has been shoved into the corner of his mind. He reaches into one of his pockets and makes a fist.

"Yo, Iron Tail!"

The villain has mostly calmed down by now, though he's still cupping his ears. He glares at Izuku as he walks closer, seemingly nervous at the sight of him. "One more step and I'll f*cking kill you!"

"Do that and she'll blow your eardrums out," Izuku says, jerking his head back at Jiro. "You don't want that do you?" The villain glares harder but doesn't make a move. "How many of you guys are here?" Izuku asks, taking his hand out of his pocket in his fist. On his waist, his taser holster is undone.

"Like I'd—"

"Pocket Sand!" Izuku chucks a fistful of powder into the villain's mouth, hitting dead center and causing him to sputter. The villain stumbles, rubbing at their eyes and mouth. Izuku charges, head pounding, and shoves his taser into the villain's thigh. There's a roar loud enough to make his ears ring, and the man goes down. Izuku jumps back and re-holds his taser. He gives the villain's metallic tail a good kick. "Electric has a type advantage over Steel, you know."

"Oh my god," Jiro says. "You decided to do a one liner and went with a pokemon reference!?"

"I'd like to see you come up with a better one," Izuku sniffs. "And I'm concussed."

"I… whatever. Let's just get the hell out of here."

"We gotta tie him up first."

"With what?" Izuku's eyes are drawn to Sero's elbows, something Jiro isn't happy with. "No. No, no, no! "

"It's that or leaving him untied."

" f*ck! "

Pulling tape from Sero's elbows is a disgusting experience. Izuku and Jiro dig their fingers into the little cracks and pull, disconnecting the tape using the sharp teeth he has. Izuku finds comfort in the fact that Jiro looks just as uncomfortable as he is, but it doesn't take away the fact that they're literally shoving their fingers in another person's orifice.

The grape boy doesn't help them, which is annoying. He goes on and on about almost dying and erotic manga scenes about tentacles for some reason. He's practically useless, but he keeps an eye out for other villains. And Kaminari…

"sh*t."

"What?"

"Where's the yellow one?"

Jiro's eyes bulge. "You lost him?"

"I didn't lose him. He was by you! And I'm concussed!"

"That's not an excuse."

"Yes it is!"

"No, it's… fine whatever. Just… ugh." Jiro stands and cups her hands around her mouth. "Kaminari Denki!"

Izuku tackles her, covering her mouth with a hand as a dumb sounding "Yay!" echoes through the forest.

"Are you f*cking dumb?" Izuku hisses. "They'll find us!"

Jiro shoves his hand to the side and kicks him in the crotch. Izuku groans and falls to the side. "They already have, dumbass. We made a sh*t load of noise already! If they wanted to attack, they would've done it earlier. At least now we know he's over there!" Jiro points to where Kaminari's cheer came from and Izuku cups his crotch, groaning in pain.

"Fine… great, even. Did you have to go for the nuts?"

"Yes," Jiro says. "Now get up and help me find that idiot."

They trek half a kilometer through the forest. There's no sun or anything to give them a sense of direction, something that makes Izuku nervous. They don't know where the exit is. The ruins and trees obscure everything. They simply have to go in the direction they heard Kaminari in and then keep going so they can get out. But how far will they be? Izuku has to carry Sero because Jiro refuses to and the grape boy just can't. It's not something he can keep up for long with his concussion and fatigue.

As they walk, they start to pick up on sounds of life. It doesn't give them hope, though. Because whoever's nearby has Kaminari, and they're probably not friendly. Jiro stops walking in front of a thick hedge and carefully pokes her head through. She pulls back immediately.

"He's there. This is also the edge of the Ruins Zone."

"But?" Izuku asks, knowing his luck can't be that good.

"There's six villains there. Ones holding him."

Izuku sighs. "sh*t. We can't fight that many. Well, maybe you could hit them with another sound blast?"

Jiro shakes her head. "The one holding Kaminari has a knife to his throat. If I do that, he'll startle and cut his throat."

Izuku chews the inside of his cheek. "We need a distraction," he says, setting Sero down. "Get the knife away from Kaminari's throat and hit the villains with everything we've got. But what will the distraction be." He and Jiro both turn to the grape boy, who goes pale as a sheet.

"N—" he starts to scream but Izuku covers his mouth.

"Calm down," Jiro hisses. "Just toss one of your balls over the hedge. Then I'll step out and take care of everything."

"I can't throw that far," the grape boy whines. "I can throw accurately, but my character design makes it hard for me to get distance."

"Give me one, then," Izuku says.

"It'll stick to your hand."

"But not to your gloves?"

"... I'll give you one of the gloves. They're special."

"The villains are three meters away from the hedge," Jiro says as Izuku slips the yellow glove on. "Throw the ball, like, six meters or so."

"I have a good arm, not a sniper rifle," Izuku mutters.

"Just throw the thing as hard as you can."

"Fine."

Ignoring the way his brain throbs against his skull, Izuku winds up. The hedge is roughly two and a half meters high. Backing up, he co*cks his arm back and throws overhand. The purple ball sails through the air, barely making it over. There's a squelch on the other side, and a few confused murmurs. Izuku hands the glove back and Jiro steps through the hedge.

"Yo." Izuku nearly facepalms as Jiro addresses the villains. That's what she calls a distraction?

"Back off or we'll kill him!" one of the villains says.

"Cool." There's a scuff of a shoe against brick, and Izuku hears the villains shift into a different position. "Hey, Kaminari, wanna go get some coffee sometime?"

There's a cheer followed by a zap. Izuku jumps back as yellow light pokes through the hedge. Six bodies hit the floor. He drags him and Sero through the hedge, wide-eyed in disbelief.

"That worked? " Izuku asks, taking in the fried villains laying on the ground. Kaminari is sitting with them, rocking back and forth giving the thumbs up.

"Yeah. I just had to make them point the knife at me," Jiro says, a little co*ckily.

"He really got that excited when you asked him for coffee?"

"I batted my eyelashes, too."

"... He has sh*t taste in girls."

Jiro laughs. "No, anyone could've done that. Just make your voice sound high—he's too dumb to tell the difference but he knows a date when he hears one. And, well…" she points to the smoking villains.

"Holy sh*t."

"Yeah, it's kinda impressi—"

"No it's not," Izuku says. "They let someone like that in. Who can lose control at any time? And I , someone who can't do that, have to fight tooth and nail to stay in?"

"Hey, I know he's a dunce but he worked hard."

"Not hard enough if he's still that much of a threat to those around him."

"You sound like Aizawa."

"So? I don't care. The man's a bastard but he's not an idiot. He was right about Kaminari, that's for sure!"

"Shove it—"

"Would you two shut up!" the grape boy screams. "We're about to die! Argue when we're all safe! Quit being dumb and save me!"

They start walking soon after that. No one says a world, though considering two of them are completely incapacitated it's not a surprise. The atmosphere is grim and angry. Izuku feels daggers boring into his back, and he intentionally walks just a little quick so Jiro struggles to keep up. He realizes fully that this is the exact type of behavior Aizawa warned him against. Not coordinating with your allies is a near death sentence, but considering what Izuku could be doing, it's not the worst. They'll get out of the USJ faster, at least.

" Arrgh! "

Izuku's head snaps to the side as a cry of pain echoes through the building. They're by a set of stairs leading up to the main plaza, about halfway to the stairs to the entrance. Izuku stops walking.

"That sounded like a man," he says.

"Probably a villain," Jiro mutters. "Keep walking."

But Izuku doesn't. He's much too curious for his own good. He gently sets Sero down and jogs up the stairs. He stops at the top, and every thought in his mind freezes.

He sees Aizawa, pinned under a mass of purple muscles. He sees the way one of his arms is completely mangled. He watches as the thing snaps one of his legs like a twig. Izuku doesn't think. As he rushes into certain death to save a man he should hate with every fiber of his being, his mind is blank. His body moves on its own.

Notes:

I'm doing a two parter for this I guess. The next one will have the aftermath, though. I hope you liked it!

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Chapter 17

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Izuku doesn't go for the beast breaking Aizawa's bones. Even in a panicked, unthinking state driven by pure instinct, he's smart enough to go for the weakest link. Which is the skinny man covered in hands, who laughs as Aizawa screams in pain. Sliding into his feet, Izuku knocks the man off balance. Izuku immediately gets back up and body slams the man. There's a grunt of pain, and Izuku feels a hand slap his cheek.

Pain explodes, and he feels his flesh start to eat away. Screaming, he reaches for his taser. He misses and grabs his handcuffs instead. Struggling to keep the man down, he binds the wrists of his enemy together. Then, something massive hits him, right in the ribs.

Izuku tumbles three meters. He slides to a halt, moaning in pain. But he gets back up. Staying down is a great way to die! Miruko's voice echoes in his mind. I don't give a f*ck if your legs are nothing but mush, if you wanna live and see anther day, you stand!

His ribs burn. They almost feel loose. They're probably shattered. Not that he's a doctor, but the way the side of his body looks like the crumple zone of a car doesn't argue with his thoughts. Forcing himself to look up, Izuku glares at the beast and the man covered in hands. He hopes he looks intimidating, but the way his face feels like it's melting off, and how the man laughs at him tells him that he's pathetic rather than something to be afraid of.

Sucking in a breath, Izuku coughs. Pain rips through his left side, sending him to his knees. He coughs up blood, and even though air is coming in and out of his nose, he feels like he's drowning. "Nice try, hero," the man with the hands cackles, slowly walking forward. He kneels down in front of Izuku and takes his bloody face in four of his fingers. Distantly, Izuku realizes that he has a five points activation Quirk. "I find it interesting that you threw yourself into danger when you could've ran away. I didn't even notice you until I was on the ground. Why throw your life away?"

Spots dance across Izuku's vision. He blinks and has to fight to open his eyes again. His head feels like lead, and his ribs rattle with every pained gasp. From the bottom of his vision he sees the man's thumb, right by the corner of his mouth. Behind the man and the beast, a red glow shines. Slowly, finally noticing that his face is no longer turning to dust, Izuku opens his mouth. The man co*cks his head to the side, and he slacks his grip, clearly waiting to hear something.

In one fluid motion, Izuku takes the man's thumb in his mouth and bites down as hard as he can. Blood explodes in his mouth, hot and coppery. His teeth chip into bone, not quite breaking it. The man howls in pain, striking Izuku across the face and desperately trying to get his hand back. But Izuku clenches his jaw even more, ragdolling the thumb. His teeth scrape against the bone, peeling back layers of skin and muscle. "N-nomu!" the man screams. "Get him off of me!"

A massive hand grabs onto Izuku's wrist, pulling him off the thumb. It throws Izuku in the direction of Aizawa, and he rolls into a ball, hitting the ground. Clutching his ribs and holding his now broken arm to his chest, Izuku spits the hunk of flesh out. He wants to vomit, but he's not sure if he can without doing more damage to his organs. Blood and bile start to mix in his mouth, and he desperately spits. The sound of something heavy and wet dragging across the ground comes from his right, and Izuku looks up.

"S-shi," he manages to get out. The entire left side of his face feels numb, but it won't move. Aizawa only blinks. Blood is leaking from his forehead, nose, and seeping from the corners of his eyes. His eyes look dead and tired, but his face is set in stone. "Why here?" he grunts. Blood and spit leak out along with a chunk of something. Hauntingly, Izuku realizes that it's a bit of his tounge.

"You or me," Izuku says, but it comes out as Oo er me. "Better a f*ck up than some pro right?" Aizawa glares but doesn't say a word. He slowly tilts his head to look back and rests his unbroken hand on Izuku's shoulder.

"Kill them!"

They both snap to attention, barely catching the way that thing dashes right in front of them. It looms above, it's toothed beak and exposed brain reminding Izuku of a nightmare he used to have. It's massive hand comes down, so slow compared to the blinding speed it had before. Instinctively, Izuku latches onto Aizawa, and he feels the man's hand clench on his back. Is this how he dies? Bleeding out as an unholy monster rips him and his bastard teacher to shreds?

The hand picks both him and Aizawa up, but the grip isn't as tight as it could be. Izuku tries to struggle, but he's too weak to do anything. Aizawa fights, too, jerking his shoulders around and looking down. Somehow he pulls an arm free, and a flash of metal gleams in the artificial lights of the USJ. A knife plunges into the brain of the creature causing it to freeze. Aizawa twists the blade, pulling it out and stabbing it back in. Blood and brain matter fly, the creatures regeneration keeping up enough to keep it from dying but not fast enough for it to move and crush them to death.

"... aser… t… aser!"

Izuku grunts and works an arm free. The beast is weaker, now; it's a small mercy. Izuku holds his taser aloft and switches it to full power. He slams it into the brain with a shlick. He pulls the trigger. Electricity crackles, burning the flesh. It stinks to high hell, but the monster drops them. Izuku lands wrong and twists his ankle. Aizawa lands wrong and pushes the parts of his broken arm even more out of place. They both try to crawl away, pushing on the ground, blocking out the pain. But the pain won't go away.

Izuku's tired. His head feels funny. He's pretty sure he can stick his tongue out through the side of his mouth. His ribcage shakes like a maraca, bone fragments pushing against his skin and digging into his guts. His left side feels heavier than normal, like there's something forigen inside of him. It's nearly impossible to breathe.

"De… tention. Detention."

"'uck off. 'm gonna die. No more uh that shi'."

"'ive. Gotta 'ive. No dying. Ye die, yer expelled."

"Don' care. 'oo 'ired."

And yet they keep pushing. They inch away from the villains and towards the steps leading to the exit. Izuku's aware that even if they get up the steps they're still probably going to die. No one can fight that thing. Maybe someone could fry it's brain again and then someone else—maybe that blond guy with the laser—could do something. But it's too fast for a bunch of kids, so everyone's as good as dead. And yet he keeps pushing. Maybe it's instinct. Maybe it's because of his training. Maybe it's just because he really wants a shot at living. But he doesn't stop. Not for a second. He and Aizawa get away, slowly. But the villains follow.

The thing—Nomu, Izuku thinks it was—approaches them again. Its shadow blocks out the sky, and it's spit drips from its beak. They keep moving, reaching for weapons that are tens of meters away. It reaches down, and Izuku finally relaxes. Then, the doors burst open.

"I am here! Slightly tar—oh dear. Oh dear."

All stands in the doorframe, massive even when he's a hundred or so meters away. He seems to glow in the harsh light coming from the outside. Otherworldly, Izuku thinks. The hero is so far beyond everyone else it's not even funny. But something's off. All Might doesn't look quite right. It's like when a picture frame is just a millimeter crooked, or when a cover of a song is only just barely different from the original. There, but off. Then, it hits him.

All Might isn't smiling.

All Might isn't smiling, and he's walking down the steps of the USJ, calm as can be. His blue eyes burn with power, heating the air and stirring up hearts. His lips twist down in a snarl, and his pearly white teeth look more like fangs than a reassuring grin. Somehow, it makes Izuku feel at ease. He smiles as best he can and breathes deeply. The pain's gone, probably because he's so tired. Funny how that works. Maybe a nap will help.

Izuku drifts off, eyes closing as titans clash before him.

[x]

He's hungry. Really, really hungry. His stomach growls, ordering him to eat. Izuku sighs and opens his eyes. He sees darkness. Fumbling, he raises his hands up to his face and pulls at the cloth covering his face. It peels away easily, and the harsh, artificial lights of the medical wing greets him. Blinking rapidly, Izuku throws off the covers. His legs look fine, and he lifts the gown to see that his torso is too. Except the scar.

A half meter long bump runs from his armpit to his hip, angry red and with stitches poking through. He touches it lightly. There's no pain. Actually, Izuku feels great. A little tired and hungry, but still great. Confidently, he swings his legs out of bed and stands. He wobbles, steadying himself with the bedside table. Looking around he finds a door, but no call button. Figuring he has to tell someone he's awake, Izuku walks to the door and opens it.

"What the f*ck?"

"Izuku!"

"Dude!"

"Kid!"

"Midoriya!"

Five people try to hug him at once. Izuku's back slams into the wall behind him, and he grunts. They all back off instantly out of worry. "I'm fine," Izuku insists, looking at each of them in turn. His mom's been crying, he can tell. Miruko looks pissed. Tesutesu, Tokage, and Hagakure just look relieved. "How's everyone else?"

The five of them exchange glances. "Really?" Toakge says. "You… that's what you're going for?"

"Yes?" Izuku asks. "I mean. I'm alive, right? It's all good. I'd still like to know about my classmates, though."

"Sweetie, get back in your bed," his mother orders, gently grabbing his arm and opening the door to the room. "We'll all have some tea and try to relax. Everyone else is fine. You got the worst of it, they think."

"That's good," Izuku says, taking a few steps in.

"No it ain't," Miruko grunts. "You're sixteen. You shouldn't have been hurt at all and yet."

"Jiro said you ran in to save Aizawa," Hagakure says, sitting down in a chair as Izuku gets back in bed. "Is that true? Everything was just so confusing. I didn't even know All Might was there until he walked into the fire zone."

"I did," Izuku admits. "I don't know why, but I did. I just kinda… moved." He shrugs, not thinking much of it.

"… as badass as that is," Tokage says, "you were a dumbass, too."

"Yeah," Izuku agrees, "I totally was. I don't regret it, though."

"Manly," Tesutesu chimes in. "If what we've heard about the fight and Aizawa's injuries, the fact that you could even do something is just… I'm glad you're okay," he says instead of finishing his sentence.

"Sweetie, are you okay?" his mother asks.

"Yeah? I—"

"No," his mother interrupts. "I know you're not missing a limb or an organ. But I'm worried about up here." She taps his forehead. "How do you feel?"

Izuku blinks. "Normal," he says. He feels Miruko glare at him from across the room. "No, really! I… I thought I was gonna die, yeah, but I'm good now. If… if I start to hurt later, I'll tell you. I promise."

"Thank you."

"Yeah."

They sit quietly for a while, his mother feeling the pulse point on his wrist, and his friends staring at him. Strangely, Izuku doesn't feel uncomfortable with all the attention. But he has to ask.

"You haven't tried to pull me out of school. Right?"

His mother takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. "I wanted to. I really, really, really wanted to. Miss Usagiyama told me about how UA's been for you when we met here, and I was honestly going to sign a transfer. But you're happy here."

"Yeah."

"I knew you were. It's… it's been your dream to graduate from here since… well, since you know what UA was. And… they caught the people that did this to you." She reaches up and touches Izuku's left cheek. Weirdly, he can't feel her hand.

"Did what to me?" he asks.

"You don't know?" Izuku looks over to Tokage.

"No?"

"Here." Hagakure presses her phone into his hands. It's open to the front camera. Izuku holds it aloft and looks to the right. A pink patch of rough skin goes from the corner of his eye all the way down to the hollow of his throat. He pokes the inside of his left cheek and finds that it's rough, too. He got a skin graft or maybe a transplant. He's not familiar enough with the term to know, but…

"Ah."

"'Ah' he says," Tesutesu forces a chuckle. "It's kinda ugly, but I think it's cool as f*ck, too."

"Language, dear," his mother chides on reflex.

"Sorry."

"It's alright." Izuku traces the new patch of skin with his finger, handing Hagakure her phone. "I don't really care about how I look."

"I don't know whether to be relieved or to cry," his mother sniffs. She wraps her arms around his torso, careful of his new scar. "I… I know it's shallow, especially when you had broken ribs and a collapsed lung, but I was so worried that you'd hate your face."

"No, Mom, it's okay," Izuku soothes. "I'm fine. I'll get used to it. Uh… girls like scars, right?"

"Not ones that make you look like Two-Face," Toakge says. His mother starts to cry.

"Thanks for that."

"My bad."

"I'm okay," his mother says. "You're all okay, too. It's… ugh, I'm such a softie."

"It's not a bad thing, Ma'am," Miruko says softly. "It takes guts to be able to show how you really feel."

"Thank you." His mother pulls away and wipes her eyes with a tissue. She throws it in a nearby garbage bin and looks back at Izuku. "I'm here for you. Always."

"You've always been."

"No. I said sorry to you, all those years ago. You probably don't remember."

"I do. I… I don't think I could ever forget."

His mother smiles sadly. "I thought as much. But I'm sorry for apologizing that day. I'm sorry for not believing in you. I'm sorry I didn't help you. But now I will. I'll help you in any way I can. Be you're my son, and you will be a hero."

"R-really?" Izuku asks, feeling tears start to well up. They're only in his right eye, something he'll have to get used to, but he doesn't mind. "You'll…"

"I will," his mother smiles. Izuku smiles back. His stomach growls.

"Then can you get me a large cheese pizza with a medium co*ke?"

"Midoriya Izuku, we were having a touching moment, how dare you ruin it!"

Izuku laughs and hugs his mother. When he gets discharged from the medical wing they all go out for pizza. Despite the horror of that morning, everyone smiles. It's nice.

Notes:

This is rated M now for violence and some heavy themes that I'll be tapping into later. I think I pushed it over with this chapter, and it'll only get more and more violet, I think. I'm going to go the route of "sh*t's going to go down, read at your own risk" with this fic. It's kinda mean, I know, but it lets me write freely and makes the scenes hit harder, I feel.
There'll be more on Shigaraki's fate in the next chapter. Bye.

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Chapter 18

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"No! Use your glutes!"

Izuku watches as Tokage tries to teach Hagakure how to hang clean. Tries. The whole process boils down to a whole lot of yelling and repeated, angry demonstrations. He'd normally step in but it's good to learn from other people. And he's currently in the middle of a back squat, trying not to laugh as Tokage slaps her own ass and screams at Hagakure to get hers involved in the exercise.

"That's twenty," Tesutesu says as Izuku stands up and racks the bar. "My turn?"

"Nah. I got one more set to failure." Izuku picks up his water bottle and chugs the rest of it. He tosses it aside and walks over to the side of the rack. "Take these plates off and put a twenty-five kilo on either side."

"You're gonna kill yourself."

"It's good for me," Izuku says with a smirk. "I've only one five or six left in the tank, this is just to make sure I properly kill my legs before class."

"Man, you work too hard." Tesutesu pulls the plates off his side of the rack and slides them on their pets. He bends down and pulls a red one off the bottom peg. Opposite him, Izuku does the same.

"I'd rather work too hard than not at all," Izuku says, stepping under the bar and pressing his shoulders into it firmly. Tesutesu steps behind him.

"Not what I'm saying, but cool. Go for it."

With a grunt, Izuku stands. The bar digs into his shoulders, but not uncomfortably. He takes a few half steps back. He hears Tesutesu step closer and hold his arms out just under Izuku's armpits. Looking up as far as he can and breathing evenly, Izuku slowly lowers himself down. He pauses at the bottom, sitting back on his heels. Then he pushes up with all of his might.

"Nice form. How do you feel?"

Instead of answering, Izuku bends his legs again, controlling his descent. He does better if he keeps a rhythm, he knows, so Izuku counts in his head. Up to five as he sinks, going below parallel, and then to two as he straightens. He gives three counts at the top, just to make sure he's still set. Four more reps pass like that, each harder than the last. His legs shake, and the weight of the bar feels crushing. But he goes down again, because it's a rep until failure set, and he's going to go until he fails.

"Seven," Tesutesu warns as Izuku slowly stands back up. Puffing out a breath, Izuku flexes his core muscles. He squats down again, faster than the last one. Digging deep, he imagines shoving his feet through the floor and bringing his hips forward. It takes five seconds, but he finally stands straight again. "Right, you're do—sh*t!"

Izuku lets himself bend again, catching Tesutesu off guard. Glaring at the mirror in front of him, he starts to rise. He's got this. He can do it. He knows he's gotten stronger than the last time he did this. He can get one more! But he feels his quads start to give and accepts his fate. He bends forward, and the bar hits the lower arms of the rack. The weight disappears, and Izuku lets himself fall on the ground.

"Up," Tesutesu says, poking Izuku's back with his foot. "C'mon, I gotta get my last set in. Run some laps or go join crazy town over there."

"She finally got it!" Tokage calls. "She finally figured out that you don't pull the bar with your arms!"

"You should've said that?"

"I thought it was obvious!"

"You don't need a spot?" Izuku asks, standing up. He takes a step out of the rack and nearly faceplants. "Nevermind."

Tesutesu snickers. "We have a combat exercise today. You're f*cked."

"We'll see about that," Izuku says, leaning against the mirror on the wall for support as he makes his way to a bench. "I'll stretch and eat well. I should be okay by lunchtime."

"Oi, dumbass! Hagakure wants to spar!"

"Not when he's about to collapse again!"

"Collapse?" Izuku grunts as he sits down. "I'm good. Give a minute and a water break and we can go until we have to leave for school."

"No," Hagakure says firmly. "I'll spar with Tokage instead. You… don't strain yourself."

"Now's when you insult him so no one thinks you're soft," Tokage stage whispers.

"But he's my friend? Why would I not want people to think I care about my friends?"

"Yeah, we'll work on that," Tokage says. Tesutesu, who's mid squat, laughs.

"You can't force her to be an ass! Just let her be nice. It'd be cool to have a break from the snark every now and again."

"Excuse you? Sarcasm and petty bickering are some of the best things in life."

"And I thought Midoriya had sh*t taste."

"Woah, woah, woah!" Izuku says, looking between the two of them. "What do you mean by sh*t taste?"

"Pineapple on pizza."

"You like leg day."

"Your clothes are all tacky."

"Hagakure," Izuku says, half amused and half insulted, "I don't care about what I wear."

" Exactly. "

Izuku spends the rest of the morning workout in a crisis over his sense of fashion. It's not that bad. Is it? Yeah shirts are kinda dumb, but his shoes are cool. He thinks. The red is flashy but the fact that they're on his feet tones it down a little. And who can go wrong with just a pair of sweatpants? He runs a lot and he trains a lot. It's practical, and they don't look awful. He tries not to think about how his mom always looks a little disappointed when he confirms that yes, he is in fact not bothering with jeans whenever he hangs out with friends.

When they're all done with their exercises, they head right for school. No showers—they can't be bothered since there's a combat class later—but they change in the locker rooms. They hop on a train to U.A and pretend they don't notice all the pointing and whispering they get for wearing U.A's iconic grey uniforms.

"—hero students—"

"—weren't there. Just 1-A, ri—"

"—ose poor things—"

"—not them, probably just Gen—"

"—ey caught the guys, righ—"

"—two attempted prison breaks al—"

"—so scary, I can't imagine—"

Their stop comes and they get off, completely silent like pretending it didn't happen will eliminate it from their memories.

"First day back in a week and we're already talking about it again, huh?"

"Now that you bring it up, yeah."

"Well, what else is there to talk about. We've… talked a lot but not about that. "

"I'd rather just pretend it didn't happened at all."

"I'm not a therapist, but that's probably unhealthy."

"Yeah," Izuku sighs. He stops in the middle of the sidewalk and looks ahead. "Look, my favorite people are here."

"f*ckin' hell, you'd think they'd have some empathy," Toakge says, glaring at the mob of reporters and press workers that crowd the gates of the school.

"I didn't work the last time," Tesutesu mutters, "how dumb are they to try again?"

"You'd be surprised. My dad works as a manager for a paper and the stuff the new hires do to try and land a big story are rediculous."

"Your dad's a reporter?" Izuku asks. Hagakure's uniform shifts as she bends at the waist. If she didn't, it'd be impossible to tell that she nodded.

"Yeah, but he doesn't do anything like this. His team doesn't, either. They just… occasionally trespass into government facilities. It's one of those news papers."

"Ah," Tokage nods, "right. They report on the illuminati."

"One, dead meme. Like, dead dead meme. And two, no," Hagakure insists. "Government conspiracies aren't just posted in a news paper."

"All I'm hearing is that your dad, who is also invisible, breaks into secret labs and military bases to bring us the truth."

"Would you—"

"Let's just get to class," Izuku interrupts. "And no, we're not hopping the wall again." He ignores Toakge's pout.

"One got an idea," Tesutesu says, wiping his hand on his jacket. "We don't wanna deal with all those cameras, right?"

"Yeah."

"Cool."

Tesutesu opens his mouth and reaches his thumb and forefinger in. Off to the side, Toakge lets out a very understandable, "What the f*ck?"

"Got it!" Tesutesu cheers, face green. "Follow me."

"I'd rather not," Izuku says, but the other boy is already fighting his way through the crowd, screaming that he has to puke and that he has awful motion sickness. The crowd, of course, parts like the red sea as they sprint in. Once they're out of sight of the gates, Tesutesu stops yelling and takes a few deep breaths.

"I used to get out of English class the same way."

"Figures."

Classroom 1-A is full when they get there. Strangely, it's also completely silent and no one glares at Izuku like he's committed a crime just by existing. No one's sitting at their desks, either. From what Izuku can tell, they're all sitting by the same people they were with at the USJ. Jiro, Kaminari, Sero, and the grape boy look at him for a brief moment before turning away. A blond boy with a tail looks at Hagakure for a moment. Ibara nods to Tokage. Ashido waves Tesutesu over. But Izuku's friends stick with him, and they sit in the back right corner.

It's weird for the silence to be non-threatening. It's weird to feel comfortable with it, too. But Izuku somehow feels safe in the classroom. It's as though everyone here has at the very least a grudging respect for him or finally sees him as a person. He tries to see it as a good thing. Really, he does. But the fact that it took a f*cking terrorist attack to get him some common decency makes his blood boil.

Aizawa walks in, front foot making contact with the floor of the classroom right as the bell rings. He doesn't feel like an enemy anymore. Or even a stranger. Izuku still wants to punch his lights out but subconsciously he feels like he can trust the man. He tries to kill that bit of him as quickly as possible, but the man's thick white scar just under his eye makes it hard.

"What you've heard on the news is true," Aizawa says, "everyone involved in the attack at the USJ has been apprehended. They are being held in Tartarus for the time being, awaiting trial. No lawyers have volunteered to represent them, and public defenders are deferring the assignment. It's likely that they will spend the next five or so years there, waiting to see a courtroom. If you have any questions, ask them now."

No one raises their hand, and no one is the least bit surprised.

"Fine," Aizawa says. "From now until lunch is an open study block. Do whatever. Ashido, follow me."

Everyone's eyes follow the two out of the room. No one moves a muscle for a moment. Every single student knows that there isn't a single assignment for them to do. Soon, a few people start to talk. And then a few more. Soon almost everyone is having a conversation, just trying to fill the room with some comfortable sound.

"Wanna watch a movie on my phone?" Tokage suggests.

"Sure."

She puts on a mindless action flick and the four of them sit against the wall. Izuku barely gets to enjoy five minutes of comfort before he's rudely interrupted.

"We need to talk."

Izuku keeps a straight face, trying to pretend the girl standing over him doesn't exist. The task proves impossible. "No thanks."

Jiro sighs. "Two minutes. Tops."

"Nah."

"I just—"

"He said no." Tokage looks up and pauses the movie. "Also, we're busy. So shut up and move along."

"You don't even know—"

"We know enough," Tesutesu says, remarkably calm for how hard his eyes look. "It doesn't take a genius to figure out some of what happened, even if he won't say a word about it to us."

"I want to f*cking apologize," Jiro grits. "Give me two minutes. Alone."

"Fine." Izuku stands and looks down at Jiro, enjoying the few centimeters he has on her. "Out in the hall."

Izuku knows everyone will be trying to spy on them, especially his friends. He'd normally be fine with it, since everything will only make Jiro look bad. But she at least has ten guts and empathy to ask to apologize, so he'll give her a little bit of privacy. That way he's a better person than she is, at least.

Leading her down the hallway, Izuku takes a few turns and leans up against a wall. He waits a few moments, listening for any footsteps. There are none. "Go."

"I'm already regretting this."

"Being a bitch at the USJ or trying to own up for it?"

"Yes."

"Cool. Now apologize."

"I expected more pushback."

"Ha. Like I'd try to stop someone from apologizing to me."

Jiro glares at the floor and touches the tips of her jacks together. "I shouldn't've tried to leave you. I… I was mad. And scared. Really, really scared. But that's not an excuse. I'm… I'm trying to be a hero. Being one means saving people, even if I hate their guts. So I'm sorry. I regret what I said. Now f*ck off."

"Solid start, but you choked the landing," Izuku says. "Five out of ten."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"I still don't like you but you're no longer at the top of my sh*t list."

"Oh goodie. I'm guessing that Kaminari is still up there?"

"He shorted himself out, wandered off, and tried to pull the same sh*t as you." Izuku crosses his arms and looks in the direction of the classroom.

"I get it. Are we done here?"

"Yeah, but one more thing."

"What?"

Izuku sniffs and looks Jiro right in the eye. "Smart of you to come and do this right before I go in to talk to Aizawa."

"Huh?"

"Don't play dumb," Izuku says, more than a little annoyed. "It's obvious. I was out after All Might came in. I was discharged right out of the hospital and spent the weekend with my friends and family. I didn't give my statement to the police or UA. Which means that the only people who know exactly what happened in the ruins zone are the five that were there."

"Sero—"

"Is a decent human being who I actually respect," Izuku interrupts, "but do you expect me to believe that he wouldn't lie to save some of his classmates? That he wouldn't go along with whatever bullsh*t you came up with to keep more people in school? f*ck, I would. The last thing I'd want would be to lose people I went through hell with."

"I didn't know about that sh*t, okay?" Jiro half yells. "I just… f*ck! Why can't I do this right? Huh? You're so f*cking hateable but I can't forgive myself for being so sh*tty back then. Every time I close my goddamn eyes I see you, glassy eyed and bleeding from the head, and I hear myself, telling the others to get going. You think I like that sh*t?"

Izuku holds his silence, at a loss for words. He watches her tremble, a few tears streaming down her cheeks and falling to the floor. He opens his mouth for a moment, but his mind is blank. He doesn't know what to say or how to say it. His emotions twist into knots, anger and resentment joining with pity and empathy. He walks away after a while, looking back over his shoulder.

It's his turn to talk to Aizawa a while later. He follows the man into a private room and sits on the side of the desk obviously meant for a teacher. Aizawa doesn't even bother with a glare as he sits down in a metal folding chair while Izuku makes himself comfy in the computer chair opposite him.

"What happened at the USJ?"

Izuku licks his lips and thinks. He opens his mouth and tells the truth.

"I got it in the head. The other four found me and helped me come to a little. Then Jiro said that we should get going. I was slow to get up and an argument broke out. Kaminari and the other one wanted to leave me. Sero didn't."

"What about Jiro?"

Izuku stares at his hands, unsure. He's mad at her, furious, even. But she owned up to it and showed remorse, which is better than anyone else has ever done for wronging. him. Other than his mom, anyways. "She said something derogatory about me being Quirkless, but she didn't outright agree with them."

"And after that?"

"There was a fight and it didn't really matter about who was or wasn't useless. After that we just kinda stuck together. We did lose Kaminari, though. Jiro tracked him to just outside the zone and we rescued him from some villains. And after that…"

Aizawa grunts in understanding. He reaches into his utility belt and pulls out a sheathed knife. He slides it across the table. Curiously, Izuku pulls the blade out of sheathe. It's dull but obviously strong. There's no chips or bends, but there's bloodstains, almost purple against the silver of the metal. And mixed with the dark is a splattering of light pink.

"Is this…"

"The knife I stabbed Nomu with," Aizawa confirms. "Keep it."

"That's it?" Izuku slides the knife back in the sheathe and slams it on the table. "You sh*t on me for weeks. You make it really clear that you hate me and think I'm the scum of the earth when we both know damn well that you were treated like sh*t as a kid because of your Quirk. And then I save your life, almost die because of it, to a f*cking multi-Quirked beast out of a cheap horror flick, and you just give a knife!?"

"It's better than what you'll get as a pro."

"So?" Izuku feels his right eye start to sting. His left is cold and numb. "You're a teacher. At UA. You're supposed to help me. This… this is my dream! I was happy to be here, and then you f*cking smashed it."

"That's what the real world will do." Aizawa looks at him, rock steady. "You have people who support you. You have drive, talent, and a brain. You're also worthy of being called a hero. But let me make one thing clear. No one will give a damn about that. You think you know this. You do, to an extent. But villains will be the least of your worries come next month with the Sports Festival. Quirkless people aren't hated, they're seen as wastes of space. Different from people like me, yes, but below them on the social ladder. I'm here to make sure you're ready for that, and I'm going to do my job. Cry all you want. It's best to get it out of your system now."

Izuku blinks, vision half blurry with tears. He stands, slips the knife in the inner pocket of his jacket, and heads for the door. Right as he opens it, he hears a rustle. On reflex, he spins and catches two items. One is his taser, which he hasn't seen in a week and is stained like the blade of his knife. The other is a pair of brass knuckles.

"If you or another person is in danger of dying, you will always have my permission to use that knife and those knuckle dusters," Aizawa says. "And, Midoriya. It's better some pro than a kid who can barely defend himself."

Izuku slams the door. He puts his taser on his belt and tries the brass knuckles on. They're a perfect fit. All the better for punching Aizawa's lights out.

Notes:

Re-read 16 if you need a refresher of what exactly was said during the USJ. I stayed true to it. Punishments will be handed out next chapter. See ya.

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Chapter 19

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"You should just transfer at this point."

Izuku slips from his water bottle, looking at himself in the mirror. His skin graft has healed a little, the pink fading to more closely match his skin tone. But it's still rough and almost uneven, and when he touches it, it feels like sandpaper. Recover Girl apparently had to do it in a hurry, since most of his cheek was destroyed and he could have bleed out through the underside of his chin.

"I said—"

"I heard you."

Izuku drops the water bottle on the floor and wipes his face with the towel around his neck. The ring in front of him squeaks and scuffs with the beat of the boxing match going on, and the smack of punches landing act like some form of melody. Tokage scoffs and splashes him with her water a little.

"So you're just going to ignore it and hope I stop asking?"

"Yeah."

"That's mature and smart of you," Tokage snarks, sitting down on the bench next to him. "I can't imagine what other brilliant things you come up with on the daily. Do you have the secret to life up there?"

"No." Izuku watches the fight, making note of how Hagakure only punches Tetsutetsu back when she feels like there's no way he'll counter. "she doesn't want to risk getting hit."

"That's not a bad thing."

"It is when she won't fight back because of it. She'll tire out or be finished off before she even makes him hurt."

"There's nothing wrong with waiting for a good opportunity. You know full well that there's no way she's going to take him down with a simple body shot."

"Still. She can't just keep ducking and weaving, she needs to push back and change the fight for herself."

Tokage keeps silent. It weighs on Izuku. His gut stirs, and he lets his shoulders slump. "I know what you're trying to do." Tokage holds her silence. "I'm not going to spill everything out of the blue. You're my friend. Probably my first real one, ever. But." He stops, fiddling with the edge of his towel.

"You hate it there."

"No I don't."

"You do."

"I hate Aizawa. I hate our class. I hate the fact that people don't give a sh*t about me, and that it's okay to spit in my face and treat me like I don't deserve to exist. It's gotten a little better, and the other teachers don't outright do anything to hurt me. All Might is damn near friendly with me, even."

"But you hate Aizawa. And Kaminari. And Mineta. And Jiro. And a good chunk of the rest. So leave."

"No."

"Why? Really, why? You… this is gonna sound stupid, but I like you a lot. Really. You're like a… a sh*tty brother who I wanna punt kick into the moon, but after seeing you deal with Aizawa… Seeing you bleeding out on that stretcher, I…"

"You'd transfer with me if I went."

"I would."

"Would they…"

"Yeah."

Izuku takes a deep breath. "UA is good for you and the other two. You've already learned a lot. Everyone has."

"There's Shieketsu."

"They don't take Quirkless kids. I checked. UA is the only one that changed the rules for entry, unless I go somewhere small and not nearly as good. Great hero schools only take those with Quirks into their hero curriculums."

"You could apprentice under Miruko."

"I'd waste her time. And I know she'd probably accept," Izuku says, cutting off Tokage before she can speak again, "I know that she cares about me. I know she wants to wring Aizawa's neck out for me, too. But I would slow her down, way more than I have already. She'd lose out on her image, too. I don't want to force myself on her. It wouldn't be right after all she's done to make me who I am."

"Your excuses are weak."

"They're not."

"I think they are. I think also that you have a different reason for wanting to stay in that sh*t-hole of a school."

"I wanna kick Aizawa in the dick," Izuku says bluntly. "Really, I do. And I want to do it in the best way possible. He's pulling this sh*t to get me to give up. He… you know that he sort of wants to succeed, in a weird, sh*tty way, but he also has this whole 'I gotta toughen him up by making his life awful even though I'm his teacher' mindset. I… the man only wants someone worthy to make it though UA. He's testing to make sure I am."

"You'll prove him right, you know. You'll graduate and he'll feel like he did the right thing, and do what he did to you to the next Quirkless kid."

"Yeah, but I'll also prove him right if I leave. He'll figure that I wasn't cut out for it and he did the right thing. So I'm gonna prove him wrong."

"How?"

Izuku shugs. "I'll graduate and be twice the hero he is."

"That's still proving him right."

"Not if I make him realize how stupid he's being, somehow. I'll push through and win. Somehow, someway I'll get him to stop, and hopefully apologize. Then I'll knock him out with one punch and make sure that he knows I didn't learn a thing from him. That I did everything with the help of people who actually give a damn about me, not some, some, sad*st."

"That's not really a plan."

Izuku shrugs. "I'm motivated by pure spite and anger at this point. I don't need a plan. I probably couldn't even come up with one. I just need to keep moving forward, until victory is mine."

"As… over the top as that was," Tokage says, "and it was very over the top. Like, something only an angsty teen could say. I mean—"

"Get to the point."

"Right. Uh. I'm behind you, man. All the way. You get me, I get you. Same goes for the others. We're a team. You're the de facto leader. So if you wanna stay and make Aizawa cry himself to sleep, I'll be with you. Just… don't hurt yourself."

Izuku smiles. "Now's when you say something mean so I don't think you've gone soft."

Tokage snorts. "Bastard."

[x]

They get a week of private study days. Most of the class spends it sparring or goofing off. When the next Monday comes, there's an emptiness in the room. Three seats are empty, instead of just one. Questions hang unspoken in the air, and no one can sit still. Izuku tries to relax at his desk, but eyes dig into the back of his skull. He looks over at Jiro, who's white as a sheet. The fact that she steals looks at both him and Kaminari's old seat tells him all he needs to know.

"Good morning." Aizawa strolls into the room, tired and slumped like usual. No one jumps at the sudden appearance, since he's been appearing out of the blue from day one.

"Morning," one brave soul mutters. Aizawa doesn't act offended at the lack of a response and moves to his podium.

"Two more are gone already," the man says, staring at the back of the room with lifeless eyes. "I take it you know what this means." No one replies. "Fine. Two of your classmates acted appallingly at the USJ. I understand that it was a traumatic experience, and that none of you were ready to face death head on. However, as heroes, UA students, and decent human beings, you're expected to act a certain way. Kaminari Denki and Mineta Minoru didn't, and have been expelled from UA."

"Wh… what for?" one of the boys—Izuku can't tell from their voice alone—dares to ask.

Aizawa crosses his arms. "All life is worth saving. That's an old saying often thought to be too idealistic. But when it comes to your partners, your comrades, your classmates. It is true. It's why there's rescue points in the entrance exam. Those who leave others to fend for themselves while injured do not belong here. Those who risk their lives to save, do. It's as simple as that."

"Hold on," another student says, "you… you can't mean."

Aizawa raises an eyebrow. "You'd be surprised at how many awful people slip through the exams and first couple of weeks," he says, and Izuku heard Jiro start to shake in her seat.

"They… those two weren't that bad," Ashido says. "A… a little gross and pervy, but…"

"They wanted to leave a classmate behind," Aizawa says, removing any trace of doubt from the room. "A vile and disgusting act, admittedly spurred on by fear, anger, and desperation to survive. Nonetheless, it is inexcusable."

"Kaminari was in the ruins zone," Asui says from her desk, "with Sero, Jiro, and Midoriya."

"Yes." Aizawa draws the class's attention to himself before it can land on Izuku. "You all can figure out what happened. It's not hard. Sero." The boy in question jumps in his seat. "You're free of all guilt. Jiro."

Izuku looks over and sees the girl looking down at her desk. Her jacks twist around her fingers, red and raw from her nervous habit.

"You know what you did. Even if it was never directly said, you didn't do a thing to disagree until the situation worsened." Aizawa looks away from the girl and addresses the entire class, "Jiro gets another shot because she owned up to it. She acknowledged that what she did was disgusting and even offered to transfer from UA. She even apologized. The other two lied right to my face and claimed to be victims. They are gone, she is not. However, she'll be on probation for the rest of the year at least. One toe out of line, and she's gone. Understand?" No one answers. "I asked if I was understood. Was I?"

"Yes sir!" the class says, though it comes out in a jumbled mess of shock and fear.

"Good." Aizawa picks up a stack of papers and straightens them out. "Now, the Sports Festival is coming up. Normally as first year students, there wouldn't be too much pressure. But this year is different."

"Because of the USJ, right?" Asui asks.

"Correct. The media will be hounding the event, searching for the story that will get them the most money. It's best that you use this as a learning opportunity. You'll be dealing with a lot of that if you graduate."

"But, sir," Ashido says, "is it wise to actually have the festival?"

"The villains who attacked you are in jail," Aizawa says, "and even if they weren't, we'd still have it. The UA Sports Festival has been happening for sixty years. If we cancel it because of an attack that claimed no lives, we'd only attract more villains. It is also vital for internships, which you will all be required to do after the festival. If we didn't have it, none of you would get a chance to learn on the job, something UA finds to be absolutely necessary."

Aizawa looks the class over again and then glances at the clock. "Any questions?"

"Yes, right here, Mister Aizawa!" Iida chops his hand up and down in the air, pushing his glasses up as he stands.

"Speak."

"Where's Bakugo?"

"Oh. Him." Aizawa's eyes close, and he seems to age twenty years in less than a second. "He should've been back this week, since he was attending General Studies classes while you had time off. However, due to some… behavior issues, he will be suspended until the end of the semester."

"Thank you, sir! We appreciate your honesty."

"Yeah, sure, whatever." Aizawa starts to walk out the door, looking back as he does. "Behave for your teachers, don't kill each other. Train hard for the festival. Or else."

Vague threats and reasonably harsh punishments for anyone but him. Izuku leans back in his seat, hardly surprised. He'll take a few more weeks without Bakugo any day, though he doesn't like that what happened at the USJ was just tossed out in the open. He can already feel the worry of his friends, and the pity of a few wandering eyes. But he can't change what happened, only how he lets it affect him. So instead of letting the worry and pity get him, he starts to prepare. Because once the festival comes, and he steps out onto that green, he'll make sure no one sees him as something to pity. Or else.

Notes:

Something quick and easy before the festival. The events will be different from cannon, because I'd get bored writing something we've all read a hundred times. I think it'll be fun. For me, anyways. Not for Izuku. See you in the next one.

Ps, this fic has a TV tropes now! Link in my profile.

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Chapter 20

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Izuku has to clean the wall the night before the Sports Festival. He shouldn't be surprised—Aizawa's a bastard—but it gets to him. Having to stand on his toes, bend down, and work the bristles against the stone when he could be resting before a big event makes everything worse. He starts to work faster than usual, to the point where the wall isn't really being cleaned.

His fingers become more and more raw. He has good grip strength from lifting, but the toothbrush is tiny. It makes his hand ache, and the tighter he holds it, the more pain he feels. Sweat runs down his neck, making his shirt stick to his skin. The bucket of water at his feet looks awfully refreshing, even if it's full of soap and bits of gunk he's washed off the toothbrush. Izuku's tired. Mostly mentally—he's been making sure to rest up for the festival—but also a little emotionally. It's… hard acting like he's not affected by all the little jabs he hears or the way a few people still shy away. No one says anything overt, and no one wants him gone, but he's still not liked. He's not respected, not truly. Not like Iida and Asui are. He wasn't respected at Aldera, sure, but he wasn't worthy of respect back then. Now, though? He knows he deserves it, he knows there isn't a good reason for him to be treated this way.

It graded him. The first few weeks were hectic, but as the Sports Festival really started to loom over the class and people started to buckle down for something big, things settled down. Enough for him to pick up on everything. Enough to crack at his mind a little. Not nearly enough to get him to break down—he's been resisting that for years—but enough that acting tough and nonchalant is tiring. He constantly wants to go home for a nap, or maybe just a movie. Something to unwind and recuperate. But the Sports Festival stops most of that and he's caught in a hellish limbo.

So his hands shake as he scrubs the wall, each sting of pain in his palm a reminder of Aizawa's harsh words. Villains will be the least of your worries come next month, and Quirkless people are seen as wastes of space… you think you know this play through his mind, almost like Aizawa planted them to try and get him to snap. It makes him mad, and he'd usually gladly take out his frustration. But the anger mixes with his exhaustion and nerves, stewing into fear. He knows Aizawa was being a dick. He knows he's experienced the world's awful treatment of Quirkless people firsthand. But he can't take it. What if the man is right? What if it's worse than Izuku could ever imagine? The thought is just too much. The toothbrush hits the ground, and Izuku slumps against the wall.

Tears don't come. He doesn't want them to. Not here. Not against his punishment for being a normal f*cking teenager. Not alone with nothing but cold stone and prickly grass for comfort. There are no tears, but Izuku sobs. His chest heaves and his lungs work in double time. He squeezes his eyes shut, feeling the trace amount of wet in just one eye. It's not enough to spill over. Shakily, he tries to wipe it away. He ends up poking his eye. Cursing himself, he collapses fully, face and arms pressed against the wall.

"f*cking sh*t. Why can't I ignore it? Why… why now? I've… ugh." Another round of dry sobs wracks his body, making his face screw up in pain. "Shouldn't… 'm so useless…"

"It's probably best if you pack up and go home, young man." Izuku doesn't flinch at the sound of a familiar voice. Instead he curls tighter into himself and tries to pretend he doesn't exist. "I can talk to Aizawa for you. I'll make him understand. Mind if I come near?" Izuku doesn't reply. "I'll sit right here then." He hears the skeletal man rest on the ground, probably staining his suit. Izuku doesn't look. He can't bring himself to. The last thing he wants is to look at someone who sees him as a crying mess.

"f*ck off," he sobs, "I'm fine."

"I'll stay right here, thank you," the man says, shifting a little on the ground. "I won't try to interrogate you, but it's not right to leave someone crying alone. Would you like some tea?"

"Where would you even get tea?" Izuku mutters, a little distracted.

"I don't know, but I'm sure there's some around. I like oolong, what about you?"

"Earl grey, I guess."

"Not a bad pick, but I'm guessing you're not a big tea drinker."

"I prefer protein shakes."

"Good for you. Tea isn't much good at your age, anyway. Nice to relax, but young men like you hardly ever need a moment to settle. Well, that's not quite true, but the young and brash don't often let their feelings settle. Perhaps you should go home and have a cup?"

"I've done plenty of settling already."

"Yet you can always do more. There's no shame in a little break, especially before a big day like tomorrow. Why don't you stand and get going. I'll pick up the bucket and brush."

Izuku tries to stand but his legs refuse to obey. The man slowly gets up and walks over, wrapping his bony hands around Izuku's upper arms. He hauls Izuku to his feet, letting the boy steady. "Thank," Izuku says roughly.

"I was just doing the right thing," the man says, waving it off. "Now go home and rest. And talk to your loved ones. I… you have no reason to trust or listen to me, but if there's one thing I want you to learn, it's that letting people help is always better than breaking down alone. For everyone."

"Okay." Izuku looks away, feeling small. The skeleton man doesn't look scary, but he excudeds a quiet confidence like he could move mountains at any time but won't because they're so beautiful. "I… what about another… nevermind."

The man chuckles. "More advice? I suppose I can spare a few more words of wisdom. I have a lot, after a life as long and full as mine. But for you, right here right now? I'll tell you this: whenever you're scared or nervous about a fight, just try to deal with it by smiling. It does little more than slap a band-aid on the problem, but sometimes that band-aid is all you need to get through it."

Izuku looks up, watching as the man's long bangs sway in the breeze. What is it with him and having mentors with bunny ears? "Thanks," he says instead of continuing down that thought. "I'm… I'm going to eat dinner with my friends and mom. I'll… thank you. I really needed that."

The man smiles and gives Izuku a thumbs up. "Good luck, young man. You've got this."

[x]

Izuku doesn't have this. Not really. But he has enough of a handle on himself to keep it cool. He forces a smile. It helps a little more, and his hands are steady as they tie the knot of his gym pants. He checks over his clothes. His shoes are laced up solidly and he taped his ankles earlier. He doesn't need to, not really, but his right one gets sore after a while of running and jumping now, after the USJ. He doesn't want to risk it spraining on him. He also wears knee sleeves, just because he can. But they're all small comforts; him trying to feel better about the mountain ahead.

"Class 1-A to the ground level entrance, class 1-A to the ground level entrance."

Everyone in the locker room fishes up their preparations. Lockers shut and people stretch. Izuku calmly walks out, flanked by his friends. There's locker rooms for all of the first year classes. 1-A and 1-B get the biggest one, which is a casual snub of the General Studies and Support courses, something that doesn't go unnoticed. Every other class is already lined up in four ranks of five. The support course heads up the rear, gadgets dead for now, waiting to be activated. The Gen-ed kids are next, most of them looking rather annoyed. Izuku shoulders their ire easily. It's directed at everyone in the hero course, not just him.

Class 1-B is probably the most interesting out of the classes, at least to Izuku. They're good—there's no way they aren't, really. They have to be, since they're in U.A. But their glares are calculated, cautious. Over the past few weeks, they've made it clear that there's a rivalry, if one sided. Somehow, they've managed to convince themselves that 1-A got lucky by being attacked, something that makes Izuku want to rip his hair out. But they're also lacking in confidence. They know most of 1-A has fought the real deal. They're scared of that. Hopefully it'll work to Izuku's advantage.

They reach the edge of the hall, and Izuku can feel the roar of the crowd. He could hear it the moment he stepped into the locker room, but now it tremors through his shoes, making goosebumps run up and down his arms. He's right up front, just a half meter from where the shadow of the hall ends and the light of the sun above begins. No one talks. They're all nervous. It doesn't take a genius to realize that they're the main event today. U.A's golden eggs. The kids saved by All Might. Students who've already gotten a taste of the real deal. It's sickening, really. No one cares that they almost died. Not when they're cheering like that. But Izuku grits his teeth and prepares to walk out.

"First up in our little opening parade are a group of fine young hero wannabes who aren't just wannabes anymore! Yes, that's right, the miraculously popular first year's who refuse to give up! Class 1-A!"

Izuku is the first one to step out. He forces himself to be. He looks up into the sky, smiling as bright as he can. The sun forces him to squint a little, but he quickly adjusts. All around the area floor are seats packed full of people, all on their feet and shouting in excitement. Izuku waves, catching himself in the massive screen right under the press box where Present Mic sits. Beside him his friends look confident. Tokage smiles and waves all around, Tesutesu grins easily, and Hagakure struts confidently. The rest of 1-A soaks up the attention, distracting themselves from what's to come.

They walk until they reach a stage in the center of the arena where they stop. Present Mic announces class 1-B and the rest of the first year classes. Once everyone is lined up, Izuku looks forward at the center of the stage. "f*cking Deku."

Izuku tenses and risks a glance back. Bakugo stands a few rows behind, having pushed through the crowd of students to be closer to the front. He glares, receiving a harsh and profane set of insults in return.

"Why the hell is he even here?" Tokage mutters.

"He was booted from the hero course temporarily. If I had to guess they probably shoved him in General Studies and, well…"

"Gen-ed competes as well," Hagakure finishes.

"Still, you'd think they'd be more strict with him," Tesutesu says.

"He's always gotten special treatment," Izuku says, turning around. He raises his voice so Bakugo can hear him, "But I'm still surprised that they let wild animals enter this thing. But I guess with the teachers on standby there's a form of animal control. Hopefully everyone else got their rabies shots."

"Say that to my face, you coward," Bakugo shouts, pushing past a few more people. "I'll f*cking kill—"

"And introducing.the chief umpire for the first years, everyone please give a warm welcome to our very own Midnight!"

Smoke pours out of the center of the stage and a figure rises from below. Midnight cracks her whip and walks forward, spinning to a stop and basking in the cheers of the crowd. "Thank you, thank you," he says, her voice amplified by the hundreds of speakers in the arena. "I love all of my fans, especially you! But let's keep the focus on the kids, shall we? They're the main event!"

The crowd cheers and Midnight takes a step back from center stage where a microphone appears from under the platform. "First things first, we have the athletes pledge! Would Todoroki Shoto please come up!"

"Wait… I thought it was always the person who placed first in the entrance exams," Hagakure says as Todoroki slowly walks up the steps to the mic.

"It is," Izuku confirms, not bothering to fight the smirk that slips on to his face, "but guess who got first this year?"

"That's f*cking hilarious," Tokage snickers.

"He did have it coming," Tesutesu agrees.

"Yeah. But why Todoroki?" Hagakure asks.

"Oh, that's easy," Toakge says, "he totally thrashed the recommendation exam. Well, he and one other boy did, but they had some kind of beef or whatever, so he technically took the top spot when the other dude declined his invitation. Also he's Endeavor's kid, so…"

"As cold as he is, I'll take him over Bakugo," Izuku says. "Not that it's a high bar to clear…"

"Whenever you're ready, Todoroki!" Attention shifts back to the stage as the tall boy looks ahead. The screen shows that he's completely apathetic, like always. His mismatched eyes wander to his right, where they lock on to a certain spot. Izuku follows Todoroki's line of sight and spies Endeavor in the crowd, flaming orange.

"I pledge to win on my own power."

There's a moment of silence. "Is… is that all?" Midnight asks, but Todoroki is already walking off the stage. Izuku blinks as the boy brushes past him, feeling a flicker of cold.

"Right!" Midnight cheers, trying to rekindle the crowd's spirit. "Let's get started, shall we? The first event is a race! But not just any race! Drum roll, please!" Up in the press box, Present Mic rapidly hits his fingers on the edge of his desk, crescending until he has to stop or risk bruising his fingers. "A rescue race!"

The excitement of the crowd dips a little, but Midnight smiles and keeps going. "Don't worry! It'll be entertaining and informational. Heroes often have to make quick calls to save as many lives as possible. Therefore, these kids will have to hunt through burning buildings to find designated items!"

"I thought this was a rescue?"

"Excuse me, did you say the building will be on fire?"

"I feel like this is a step above what we're capable of…"

"Hush! I'm not done." Midnight cracks her whip to punctuate her sentence, reigning in the students. "Good. Now, you will be allowed to use your Quirks and support items. There will be three different buildings, all on fire. However, the fire is fake, and the buildings aren't untable. You each have an item assigned to you that will literally have your name on it. Your job is to find it, bring it to the stage, and continue to grab items. The more you grab, the more points you get, the higher you place! Ready?"

"No," everyone says at once. But the arena is already shaking, and a gap opens up in the center. Three five floor apartment buildings rise from the earth. They light in a flash, burning red, white, and blue. U.A's colors.

"Too bad! Go!"

Izuku goes right for the farthest building. If Aizawa had a hand in the festival—and he no doubt did, bring a hero teacher—he'd force Izuku to do the most work. So he sprints right for the building covered in a pure white flame. A handful follow him, but he easily outpaces them. The blue and red buildings are the most crowded, and Izuku can hear Bakugo blasting his way to the top of one already. The sprinkling of crystals forming mid air let him know that Todoroki is trying to get in on it as well.

"Please note that hurting other contestants is not allowed! But you can get in their way!"

Izuku lunges for the fire escape, pulling himself up and shooting to his feet. He climbs the steps, stealing a look inside of a window. The entire room is wreathed in flame, and he realizes that it's just as much about searching as it is about speed. He dives through the top window, rolling, standing, and shutting it behind him. He's in what's left of a kitchen, the fake fire making it impossible to get a clear look at anything unless he gets up close. Izuku starts to rifle through the drawers, unsure of what the item could be. He tosses aside spoons, forks, and plenty of chopsticks, ignoring the way the fire tickles his hands. He pulls out a knife, and finds a name written on it.

Feeling that he's on the right track, he overturns the entire kitchen. Nothing. He moves to the living room and finds that some poor schmuck has to haul an entire TV to the stage. He starts to go through the bedrooms next, and nearly sets the place on fire for real. Midoriya Izuku in big, bold letters. Right in the center of a king sized mattress. There's some solace in the fact that Bakugo Katsuki is written on the vanity across from it, but he can't linger for long. Izuku rips the sheets off and the mattress off of the box spring. He pulls it through the door and kicks down the entrance to the hallway. The elevator is definitely out so he makes a beeline for the stairs.

He hears a few people struggling in the floors around him as he moves. Someone's cursing about running with scissors and another stomps on the ground. Izuku keeps moving, tuning it all out. He starts to sweat. The mattress isn't that heavy, but it's awkward. He can't get a propped grip on it, and it constantly wants to smash into his face. But after a few minutes, he makes it out of the building.

It's total chaos outside. People chuck items out of windows, lob attacks in front of each other, and steal items. There's already a few scores on the board, most of them from the hero classes. Izuku grits his teeth when he sees that Todoroki is in first by a massive margin. Deciding that he can't waste more time, he starts to move. But he's way too slow. The mattress bogs him down. He needs something to push or drag it with, but what?

A child's wagon is thrown out of the window of the red building, landing at just the right angle to flatten the sides but not the wheels. Izuku sprints to it, finding that it's someone else's item. He steals it, racing back to his and putting the mattress on top. He runs, ignoring the curses of a blond boy who leaps from the widow without care. He moves to Izuku, floating in the air somehow. He touches his fingers together and lands, swinging a palm at Izuku's face. He ducks, but it ghosts his hair. The boy cries out in joy and tries to do something. But nothing happens. Izuku shoulder checks him and keeps moving.

When he gets to the stage, he finds that it's covered in ice. He curses Todoroki, digging his shoes and hands into the cold as he pushes the mattress up with his neck. The wagon is on top of it, because at this point the blond chasing him looks like a maniac and he doesn't want someone like that in the next round. It's a race to the top between them, with Izuku dodging gigantic hands and candle wax. He very nearly falls, but each time he does he uses the blond as a step ladder. And each time that happens, the blond touches him and nothing happens. He eventually reaches the top and stops, watching in satisfaction as his name is placed on the scoreboard.

"Stupid class 1-A!" Izuku turns to see the blond boy marching up to him with a sour expression. "You just have to take all the glory?"

"It's not like you were using it."

"Oh. Oh, ho ho. How typical. Just like one of you idiots to try and knock us down a peg as you cheat your way to the top."

"Cheating? I played fair and square. You actually probably broke the rules trying to hurt me."

"I was well within my rights to try and get my wagon back! You shouldn't have stolen it in the first place?"

"Well, it's too late now. It's already in my point total."

"No, no. It does matter. It's a symptom of your entire classes mentally. You steal from us. You take our fame, you take our respect from the teachers, you take our glory of being students in this school, and you took my wagon?"

"Big f*cking whoop. Cry me a river and drown in it, my points, not yours."

"Only because you're a cheat and glory hog!"

"No I'm not! And my class is full of dumbasses but they're not glory hogs either!"

"Yes they are! You've all milked the USJ attack to make yourselves look better when you're not even as good as us!"

"So you think it's nice being attacked by villains? Huh? You think it's a f*cking treat to have half my face melted off?" Izuku takes a step forward, forcing the boy towards the edge of the stage.

"I didn't—"

"Yes you did. f*ck you in your dumb, pride filled ass. You want something like this?" Izuku points to his scar, seething in rage. "You want to deal with my piece of sh*t teacher and watching my classmates, who hate me, almost die and feel awful about it? Do you want to pass out, missing half your blood? Huh?"

"S-s-sorry—"

"Don't f*cking apologize to me!" Izuku takes another step, poking the boy into the chest with his index finger. "You don't deserve to! I wish someone entitled and pompous like you would take my place. You'd probably be balling after one day! So f*ck you. I hope you fail to get to the second round next year, too."

Izuku turns, breathing deeply. It feels good to get all out, because that wasn't just directed at the blond boy. He lets himself relax and takes a few more long, slow breaths. He looks up and finds that the crowd is dead silent. The buzzer dings.

"And that's time," Midnight says calmly. She looks at Izuku, sympathetic. He looks back at her, confusion written on his face. "The top forty move on. Everyone may spectate."

Izuku looks at the screen. He scans down from the top, worry growing with each passing row of names. He finds himself dead last, and relaxes. He made it by a hair's breadth. But everyone else seems to find his name at the same time, too. And then the booing starts.

Izuku doesn't know why they start to boo him. Well, he does know, but it strikes a chord. They… they didn't hear his spiel to the blond boy. There's no way they did. They only saw him steal the wagon and yell at a scared and sorry looking boy. Midnight and Present Mic calm the crowd down, but the damage is already done. Izuku walks off the frozen stage, ready to punch something. What a perfect start.

Notes:

Yay, longest chapter. Sorry for the extra day of wait, work's a bitch. I hope you enjoyed.

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Chapter 21

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There's forty private rooms for the competitors who made it to the second round. In past years, the second round qualifiers had to stay out on the lawn, but this year is different. Izuku can hear stones turning and he can feel the ground vibrate. Cementoss is out there making something big, and the longer he spends alone in his room, the more antsy Izuku gets.

It's hard to keep his cool. There's tens of thousands of people out there who hate his guts, ready to chuck cups and food wrappers at him. It weighs on him a little. There's no way for him to ignore it. As much as he'd like to play it cool, just walking out there will stir up a firestorm. So he paces back and forth, trying to keep warm. He does some stretches and forces himself to not look at his phone. He knows he'll go right to the live news feeds of the event or to the hashtags and discussion boards. And then he'll get a real taste of how people think of him. But his phone rings, and he has to pick it up.

"What," he says, knowing that he's in for something just by looking at the contact information.

"What did that punk say?"

"Punk? No, no, you mean a perfectly nice UA student. One that got verbally assaulted by a delinquent on live television."

"You're an ass and a f*cking idiot, but you don't get mad without reason. What the hell did he say?"

"He called me a glory seeking asshole and claimed that I had the privilege of having my face permanently deformed."

"You did the right thing."

"Tell that to the audience."

"Nah. They don't deserve it."

"No sh*t," Izuku scoffs. "Yeah, they're misled but I'm not about to lose sleep over their opinion."

"Are you?"

Izuku huffs and kicks a chair. "Maybe a little."

"Look, kid, I… it's f*cking hard dealing with this sh*t. It really, really is. I know a little—f*ck, you probably don't remember my scandal, do you?"

"You had a scandal?"

"Some bullsh*t about steroid use. It was a big deal at the time, 'cause Quirk enhancers are illegal for heroes. It all got cleared up, but for two months I was shunned. Not abused or attacked, just forced out of the community. Like you are, a little. And it f*cking sucked. But every time I tried to defend myself, I'd get a huge amount of backlash."

"What did you do?"

"I kept on going. I said my piece, made my case, but I didn't stop my work."

"I don't want to just put my head down and take it."

"Then don't. You don't have to be a good minority. Because you are a minority, and even if that crowd doesn't currently hate you for being Quirkless, they'll use it as fuel for their fire as soon as they find out. But you don't have to be a nice, well behaved, civilized Quirkless kid acting all prim and proper, politely asking to be treated well while assholes scream in your face. If you do, they'll just keep doing it. So don't. Yell, get mad, f*cking win the whole f*cking tournament and piss on the trophy to prove a point. I don't care. Just stay. In. Control."

"There isn't a trophy for this thing. They give out medals."

"Shut up, I'm on a roll. You remember what I told you about swinging first?"

"You told me not to."

"Yeah, cause you shouldn't. But now, since you're on the f*cking news making a kid cry, you can't swing back too hard. If you get heckled, you don't punch. Bite back with words and win the fight you're in. Because if you continue like you are, your style will make you look like a savage."

"Wonderful."

"Yeah, but you chose it, and we both know you prefer fighting dirty. But you also don't want to be seen as a villain. So keep your cool. Every comment you make has to be thought through. You blew up on that blond kid, don't do it again. Wait a second and then tear into him. You have to get everyone to see that he was asking for it, too. Cause that camera cut right to you screaming at him and him crying."

"This feels like a lot."

"I'm cramming, like, five courses of public relations and presenting your cause into a five minute phone call. But do you get what I'm saying?"

"It's right for me to fight back, but they need to see that I'm fighting back and not just fighting to fight."

"Good."

"I need to be in control of myself at all times or else I'll be seen as a bloodthirsty beast."

"Yeah."

"And giving a f*ck about idiots in the stand who can't wipe their asses without an illustrated instruction manual is dumb."

"Atta boy."

"This feels like a weird mix of caring too much and not giving a f*ck."

"Lemme let you in on a little secret. That's exactly how everyone in your shoes has had to be. If you showed how much you really wanted to be treated well, they'd dangle it in front of you like a f*cking carrot. But if you show them that you don't care, they'll start kicking you down. You gotta stay in the middle."

"Alright. Thanks."

"Yeah. Now go out there and win."

It's easier said than done. Izuku hangs up and puts his phone away. He walks to the door and grasps the handle. He gives himself a few seconds to breathe. The nerves swell, but he smiles. It helps a little. Just enough for him to turn the handle and walk out. The hall is empty, but Izuku heads to the left and finds that the communal waiting room has a few people in it. Tesutesu waves him over from his seat on a couch in front of a TV.

"Anything good on?" Izuku asks, taking a seat next to his friend.

"Just highlights." Tesutesu points to the remote on the coffee table. "Unmute it if you want. I've been trying to avoid all the buzz around everything."

"Smart," Izuku says, grabbing the remote and putting the subtitles on. A black bar appears at the bottom of the screen, rolling along the edge. He catches the words Midoriya and outrage and decides to turn them back off. "Let's just keep doing that."

"Yeah." Tesutesu leans back, resting his hands on the back of his head. "Was the guy asking for it?"

"Yep."

"Cool. I'm glad I don't have to see him again."

"If we get knocked out we have to sit in the stands."

"I guess. Did you see the list of the qualifiers?"

"No."

"All of the hero students made it except for that one guy. There's two kids from support and one from general studies."

"Bakugo made it?" Izuku asks, surprised that he managed to get his item to the front along with a few more.

"Yeah, he got fifth place. I heard him bitching about it since his room's right next to mine. I'm not looking forward to putting up with that again."

"Same."

They sit for a few minutes, watching the coverage of the festival on TV. Izuku catches up on a few highlights since he was distracted for the entire round, and tries to size up the ones that made it. The recommendation students from 1-B are what worry him the most, since he doesn't know anything about them and they could have years of extra training. The support students look absolutely insane, and he doesn't envy whoever had to fight them for a spot in the second round. Bakugo had also gotten stronger, or at least less trigger happy. Izuku watches a clip of him actually trying to fight from mid range instead of rushing in like a moron, which will make any future fight with him even more difficult. And Todoroki is still unbeatable.

"All remaining competitors to the arena immediately!"

The phrase is repeated three or four times, but it's wholly unnecessary. Every single person drops what they're doing and heads for the door, trying not to hurry even though they're all nervous. Too nervous to even trash-talk or bicker. They're quiet as they reach the lawn, feeling the roar of the crowd shake their bones, and gazing up at the massive structure before them.

A spire rises from the earth, reminiscent of a jagged tooth. Solid grey, it twists and turns, jutting out at odd angles and caving at other points. It has to be at least twenty meters tall and fifty meters across at the base. At the top, Izuku can see that it's barely wide enough for twenty or so people to stand on.

"You think Cementos gets a bonus for making all of this stuff?" Tokage asks, leaning between Izuku and Tesutesu with her elbows on their shoulders. "I mean, he's already gotta be working to the bone twenty-four seven, but this?"

"He probably gets something," Izuku figures. "There's no way he'd stay if he didn't."

"Y—"

"Yo, yo, how are y'all feeling tonight!" Present Mic's voice rips through the stadium, stirring up a round of cheers. "That's what I like to hear! How about a round of applause for our competitors and our referees!" The volume dips a little, but no one pays it any mind. The way Midnight stands atop the spire with a microphone, looking ready to whip them into starting steals their attention.

"Welcome back, kiddies!" she croons, spreading her arms out wide. "You made it! Congrats. Really, I'm proud of all of you. But there's another test before the main event! A battle royale, of sorts. It's almost a tradition, you know. But we have to shake it up a little!

"This year, it's a king of the hill match! The last sixteen people on top of the tower move on to the individual battles. The fight isn't over until forteen of you are knocked out! But you should know that this isn't an individual event. There's teams!"

"Okay, so," Izuku says, looking at his friends, "how about—"

"Teams that have already been determined!"

"f*ck."

"Yes, yes, I'd say they're randomized, but they're not! Please look on one of the screens right now to find your partner. Get with them quickly so I can finish explaining the rules!"

Izuku hunts for his name on the big screen, finding it halfway down the list, right under Hagakure's. But he's not paired with her. Instead, he's with someone he's not sure he's seen before. "Who's Koda Koji?"

"Jeez, man, really?"

"What?" Izuku asks, looking at Tokage.

"He's in our class."

"Well I'm sorry for not studying the roster when half the people hate me for no good reason."

"I… I'll help you find him."

Tokage pulls him through the crowd, linking up with Ashido along the way since she's her partner. After a minute or so, she stops and points. Izuku looks and sees a tall boy with a weird head. It's somehow stoney and soft at the same time. He gets the distinct impression that he's not a fighter, but he forces himself to reserve his judgment.

"Him?"

"Him."

Izuku approaches the boy, waving and trying to smile. "Hey, Koda, right?" The taller boy looks down, a little skittish. He nods. "Cool. Um. Do you have a plan?" Koda shakes his head. "Alright, that's fine. What's your Quirk?"

Koda blinks, clearly surprised. He points to his mouth and then does something with his hands that Izuku doesn't understand. "I'm sorry, what was that?" Koda points to his mouth again. "Lips?" Izuku guesses. Koda shakes his head vigorously. He opens his mouth and closes it. "Speak?" Koda nods. Then he crouches down on all fours. "Crawl?" Izuku gets a no in response. "Uh… something that crawls?" Koda stands and makes a so-so gesture. "Somewhat crawling, but also talking?" Koda shakes his head. He opens and closes his mouth like he's talking again and points to Izuku. "Me?" No. "Person." Yes. "Talk to person?" Yes, but no. "Talking to something." Yes. "Talking to something that crawls but doesn't always. Monkeys?" Koda spreads his hands. "Mammals?" He spreads his hands wider. "Animals! You can talk to animals!"

Koda nods, the corners of his lips curling up in what must be a smile.

"That's pretty useful," Izuku says, looking up at the tower, "but I doubt there are any animals here." Koda holds out his hands and pinches his index finger together like he's grabbing salt. "Yeah, small stuff like ants. Maybe those could help, but uh…" Koda shrugs. "You get it. Do you have a plan or…" Koda shakes his head. "Okay, cool. Because I've got one…"

The countdown starts, and Izuku leads Koda to the very back of the crowd of people. He does so as discreetly as possible, slowly walking backwards with his head angled down. It's a holdover from his middle school days. He knows how to be ignored; how to act insignificant. When the timer hits zero and Midnight screams for them to go for the top, Izuku stays put, Koda at his side. Every other team rushes to the foot of the tower, lashing out at each other in an attempt to be the first.

"Not bad, huh?" Izuku says, watching three teams get knocked out in the first twenty seconds. Beside him, Koda nods. "Yeah. How fast are you?" Koda cringes, giving the thumbs down. "You probably rely on animals for everything. That's… not exactly good. Uh. We'll have to get going early if we want a shot." Koda nods and takes a step forward. Izuku stops him. "A little bit longer. I don't have to have to fight a bunch of teams on the way up."

Koda's eyebrows shoot up, and he looks at Izuku like he's from another planet. "I'm not a battle hungry brute," Izuku sighs. Koda looks away and nods. He looks back, points to his face, and smiles sympathetically. "Not fun having a mug like that, huh? Still, I guess I come off as… yeah."

A few more teams are knocked out, and Izuku gets ready to run. "You set the pace," he says, "something comfortable but quick. I'll lead. We're going to try and get to the top quickly. Don't stop unless you have to!"

Koda wordlessly starts to run. Izuku catches up, pulling ahead and slowing down. They jog up the bottom ramp of the tower, avoiding the remnants of past attacks. Shards of ice are the main obstacle. Clearly Todoroki decided to try and screw everyone over. But the scorch marks on the wall show that Bakugo blasted through, giving everyone a way up. Including them. Izuku jumps over a pile of ice, nearly slipping on a puddle of oil. He glances back to make sure Koda's still there and strains his ears at the same time.

"There's a fight ahead. I can't tell how many. Just run right through them."

Koda doesn't say anything, but Izuku feels the brush of a hand on his shoulder. Knowing that his partner understands, he turns a corner and sprints down the hall. He runs right past a few people from class 1-B, stopping and waiting for Koda to break through as well. But the four classmates stop fighting and turn to target Koda. They lock onto him, forgetting about the smaller target behind them.

Izuku tackles a guy around his height, laying him into the dirt. He feels the boy struggle, but Izuku hit him hard enough to put him into a daze. He's weak. Izuku grabs the boy's headband, tying it around one wrist and then around the other. Behind him, he can hear Koda struggling against the other three. Glaring, Izuku leaves the boy only half subdued.

He rams a small girl into the wall with his shoulder, twisting one of her horns from her hand and clocking another boy across the face with it. Both go down, but not for long. A massive fist slams into the wall, Izuku only barley ducking under it. He steals another one of the girl's horns, noting that she has hooves for feet.

Koda is held aloft in the air by the remaining 1-B girl. Her left hand has swelled to the size of a large mattress, and her right hand is the size of Izuku's head. She clearly knows that if it were bigger, it would be slower. She's not an idiot. f*ck.

"One on one?" Izuku suggests, "hero to hero? No Quirks, only victory."

The girl glares, keeping her mouth shut. She's wary of him. Izuku can tell from the way she keeps low and how the hand not holding Koda protests her vitals. "My team's already out, I may as well get yours as well."

"Then knock him out?" Izuku questions, gesturing to Koda with one of the horns. "Like… you could've ended this already. Are you that stupid?"

"What? N—"

"Distraction!" Izuku screeches, chucking the horn right past the girl's head. She instinctively twitches her head to the left, but tries to turn back, realizing her mistake. Izuku uppercuts her, ducking under her right hand and jumping. His fist is packed with the other horn, and he puts everything into the punch. The girl goes down, crumpling into a heap.

"How are you doing?" Izuku asks, helping Koda up while he keeps an eye on the people he knocked out. Well, none of them are quite knocked out, barring the red-head with the big hands. But the rest are so dizzy that there's not much to worry about. Still, Izuku watches, not wanting to be blindsided.

Koda grunts, rolling his shoulders as he stands. He looks at the 1-B students and then at Izuku. He focuses on his hand. Izuku looks down at his own arm, twitching his fingers. There's a stab of pain. Upon closer inspection, he finds that his knuckles are cracked and swollen. "I'm fine. I didn't even break my fingers. But we have to keep moving." Koda points to the 1-B kids. He laces his fingers together. "Yeah, we can tie them up. Just be quick."

They use Koda's jacket to take care of them. Every second spent on a knot feels like an eternity when other teams could be getting knocked out left and right, but if they don't secure the people behind them, they could be in for a nasty surprise later. So once they're done they sprint. Izuku pushes Koda but keeps a close eye. At the very least, the bigger boy is good as a distraction. Though he did get attacked by three people at once, so his true combat capabilities are up in the air. Izuku's slow to call anyone useless by nature, and the last thing he wants is to piss his teammate off and lose his shot.

"C'mon, keep going," Izuku coaches, "you got this. Deep breaths! Don't stop!" Koda huffs and puffs beside him, red in the face. But he doesn't slow. He keeps his foot on the gas, and Izuku appropriates that. They keep climbing the tower, finding knocked out students along the way. Izuku tries to keep a tally, wanting to know how many are left. There's twenty teams, and Izuku knocked out two. He finds eight more on the way up, meaning that there's nine up top, maximum. Eight can move on, and the only way for it to end is with twelve eliminations. If the timing is right, Izuku and Koda can swoop in and pick off a team or two and deal the deal. "We've got this!"

Izuku bursts onto the top of the tower, finding it covered in ice. People brawl in groups, dancing back and forth from the edge. Todoroki has made a tower on top of the tower where he and his partner sit, watching over the chaos like royalty. Bakugo tries to climb up it, but a wave of ice blocks him. Bakugo falls, getting up and screaming for his partner—a purple haired boy with massive eye bags. Then, he sees Izuku.

"f*cking Deku!"

"Push someone off!"

Izuku pushes Koda away, taking Bakugo's tackle head on. His chest and arms burn, and he feels his legs buckle. He headbutts Bakugo's nose, breaking it again as they tumble. Izuku seems to have put him into a blind range, because Bakugo's not thinking. The larger boy lashes out with smoke and fistfuls of fire, burning Izuku's skin. But it's a wrestling match with explosions, not a battle of Quirks.

Izuku punches and kicks ant bites, trying to create some space to work with. But Bakugo keeps attacking, blowing holes in the floor and keeping a hand on Izuku at all times, searing skin. Izuku feels himself start to slip. He can't fight Bakugo like this. Not when it's just a struggle of raw power. He needs to move. He needs to be able to read and taunt, but he can't. He starts to get dangerously close to the edge, and Izuku frantically looks around for Koda. But the boy is frozen, watching the brawl in front of him.

"Do something!" Izuku begs, feeling one of his shoulders dip over. He tries to flip and toss Bakugo off, but an explosion takes both of them a meter back. Izuku struggles against his enemy, feeling his hope die. This is it. All the way to the top, only to lose because his teammate can't handle a little violence. Izuku keeps fighting, even though he knows it's by all means hopeless. There's just no way he'd be able to live with himself if he didn't fight to the bitter end. So when Bakugo dangles him over the edge, Izuku claws at his wrists and punches at his legs.

"f*ck you! You sh*t faced lo—"

"And time!"

The world halts, and Izuku is pushed up to the top by some invisible force. Bakugo is quickly wrapped up in Midnight's thorny whip, her dazzling smile assuring everyone that the chaos is over.

"Good work, everyone! If you're still up here,. congrats! You moved on!"

"How…" Izuku scans the area, finding Koda looking over the edge. He walks to his teammate, calling his name. "What… what's this about?" Koda points down, and Izuku gets a look of a boy with blood red hair at the bottom, looking really bummed. Beside him, two more people try to cheer up after their defeat. But it's futile. "Ah."

Izuku doesn't understand and he doesn't pretend to. He just stands there, watching others mull over their defeat or their victory. Eventually, a medical bot takes him to be treated for his burns. Koda comes with, since he's a little banged up too. They sit there quietly. There isn't a need for words. And soon they'll be too nervous to talk properly anyways. What with fighting on the world's biggest stage and all.

Notes:

Fun stuff, fun, fun, stuff. I'm tried so I don't have much to say.

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Chapter 22

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

First Round:

Fight one: Todoroki v. Koda

Fight two: Bakugo v. Tokage

Fight three: Yaoyorozu v. Jiro

Fight four: Sero v. Ibara

Fight five: Tesutesu v. Shinso

Fight six: Midoriya v. Uraraka

Fight seven: Hagakure v. Bondo

Fight eight: Tokoyami v. Ashido

"Well that's nice," Izuku says, reading and rereading the bracket. "I half expected to be lined up with Bakugo and then Todoroki right after."

"Yeah, good for you, but I got stuck with Bakugo." Tokage munches on her sandwich, watching the names scroll across the TV screen in their waiting room. "And Todoroki, too."

"Yeah, but you've got a shot against Todoroki," Tesutesu says. "I mean, if you split apart and fly he won't be able to freeze all of you. Then you can knock him out. And Izuku whooped Bakugo's ass the second day of school."

"Yeah, but it's still pretty sh*tty," Tokage complains. "Getting stuck with the two moodiest bitches in the class, barring Aizawa of course."

Izuku snorts. "Yeah, I don't envy you. But, hey, if you knock both of them out you'll get to fight Ibara."

"Ack, no, f*ck that." Tokage tosses a piece of lettuce at Izuku's face in disgust. "She'll probably win the whole thing. Her or Todoroki. I do not want to fight the girl who can fill the whole arena with sentient plants, all loyal to her."

"Fair," Izuku agrees. "None of us are probably taking the gold today. Well, I could and Tesutesu could. You're not."

"f*ck off, like you could beat Todoroki."

"You never know. Maybe I can seduce him with my clever whit and charming good looks."

"Dude, he's like the living definition of ace. I don't think anything could seduce him."

"Whatever."

"Anyway, that Koda guy." Tesutesu twists a pair of chopsticks between his hands. "I feel bad for him."

"Yeah. He had to put up with Midoriya."

"f*ck you."

"He did," Tesutesu agrees, "but he's got to fight Todoroki. For the first fight."

Izuku cringes. "Yeah. I. Yeesh, I feel bad now, too."

Tesutesu hums. "Is he strong? We haven't seen much of him in training."

"He's aiming to be a rescue type, I think," Izuku says. "Not a fighter. Which isn't bad, but. He's going to be knocked out really fast. Where's Hagakure?"

"Talking to her dad," Toakge says. "She ran off after the bracket was announced, saying that he was with all the other press people. Anyway, do we know anything about the kids from 1-B? Or that Shinso guy. I asked around and no one has a clue about him."

"Shinso was partnered with Bakugo and got carried, I think," Tesutesu says. "And the 1-B people… the Yaoyorozu girl is strong."

"Well, yeah, she was a recommendation student. But what about that Bondo guy."

"Not a clue. Which sucks, because Hagakure is going up against him. I hope she does well."

"I hope she wins," Izuku adds. "Just imagine. Tokoyami versus Hagakure. I think she could take him, and it would be hilarious to watch."

"We'll have to wait and see, I guess."

"Yeah. We will."

Todoroki v. Koda goes a little something like this: Present Mic talks up both combatants, but it's clear that Todoroki is favored to win. The crowd cheers and Midnight asks the two boys if they're ready. Both nod, one out of cold aloofness and the other out of nerves. She cracks her whip above her head, and ice forms. It swells, rising almost like a wave, covering the entire floor of the arena. Koda is covered up to his chest, shivering in the cold. Midnight calls the match, and Izuku is left stunned. Complete overkill doesn't even begin to describe it. Todoroki has to spend the minutes melting the ice, and Izuku has an epiphany.

Todoroki's ice comes from one side only. The right side. The side with the white hair. But the left has never been used until today, where steam rises from the ice. The f*cker has a dual aspect Quirk and only bothers to use one half of it. Izuku immediately what's to punch his lights out.

But the next fight is announced, and Tokage and Bakugo head for their entrances. Izuku cheers for Toakge, making sure that she hears every backhanded compliment he's got. She grins at the cameras, taunting Bakugo every chance she gets. But Bakugo keeps calm, glaring at her silently. The whip cracks, and Tokage splits. Bakugo has two hands, Toakge can break into roughly fifty parts. She's also amazing with her Quirk, and the speed at which she can hurl herself around can exceed fifty kilometers an hour. Bakugo, however, doesn't care about any of this. Because the first thing he does is go for the head.

Bakugo can't fly. Not properly. Not like Toakge. But he can jump. And he does, blasting the ground below him to smithereens as he rockets towards Toakge's head. She reacts quickly enough to split her eyes and ears and mouth off, using her hands to redirect Bakugo's explosions. But Bakugo just keeps blasting, not caring for what he hits as long as he's hitting something. Tokage tries to do a better job of restraining him, keeping Bakugo in the air while she reforms her arms to try and clench his hands together. However, Bakugo won't fall for it.

He twists, jerking around and blasting the arms. Tokage is forced to drop him, but she quickly recovers, snatching Bakugo's feet and chucking him higher into the air.

Toakge's feet smack into his face, bloodying his nose. Bakugo swears, flipping over and blasting directly below him. Tokage goes in for another pass, striking him in the ribs and face. Bakugo tucks his chin, trying to ride it out. But Tokage can hit like a truck. She batters him, playing hacky sack with Bakugo's body as she kicks him around and around. It's not enough to have the match called, but Bakugo can't take much more of it. Izuku rises to his feet, cupping his hands around his mouth, screaming at Tokage to end it. Then, either by accident or out of co*ckiness, Bakugo bounces too close to Toakge's head.

There's no hesitation. The blast rips through the arena, echoing into the sky above. Every piece of Tokage freezes mid air before falling. Bakugo follows, desperately trying to break his fall with explosions. Midnight catches them both, and Izuku sprints for the medical center.

Recovery Girl fixes all the damage, but seeing Tokage passed out on a hospital bed, still in a dozen or so pieces gets to him. He, Tesutesu, and Hagakure sit with her, watching the next few matches on a TV in the room. Jiro loses to the Yaoyorozu girl, and Ibara easily knocks Sero out of the tournament. Tesutesu reluctantly leaves for his match, promising to fight hard. But as Izuku watches the fight between Tesutesu and the purple haired boy, he has to grip the armrests of his chair to keep from yelling. Because Tesutesu walks out of the arena without throwing a single punch.

His first instinct is to find his friend and ask what happened. And he almost does. Tesutesu would never back out of a fight. Every. And the fact that he basically forfeited the match in front of millions of people will, without a doubt, get to him. But Izuku's name spills from the intercom, and he's forced to get up.

"Good luck," Hagakure says as he steps out the door. Izuku stops and looks back, smiling wryly.

"I try not to rely on luck."

"Then win. For us. For you. But most importantly them. Because I know this one cares an awful lot." Izuku watches Tokage sleep, eyes traveling to the hand Hagakure holds.

"Yes, ma'am."

Of course, it's not that simple. Nothing ever is. So when Izuku reaches his entrance and looks out at the stone platform beyond, he feels his nerves creep up. He tenses, clenching his fists and hopping from foot to foot. He smiles, ragged and more of a snarl than anything else. It helps, but there's more to his disgusting mess of emotions than the fight ahead of him. He's worried. Not for himself, but for his friends. He wants to comfort Tesutesu and wait for Tokage to wake up. But if he does, he'll forfeit, and if he pulls something like that, he'll be in deep sh*t.

"Alright, folks, that last one was a little… anticlimactic. But this next one will surely get you all riled up! From the gifted class 1-B, queen of gravity and all things sweet, Uraraka Ochako!"

Izuku watches his opponent step out, trying to break her down before he even gets to look her in the eyes. She's small, but that doesn't mean much. He's small and can flip men twice his size over his head. It's all about how you use your body, not it's structure. But it's also about having the muscle to do it, and he can't tell if Uraraka has muscles. He assumes that she's decently fit since she's in the hero course, but her gym uniform hides her arms and legs. He's essentially going in blind. She could be like him, built well from months of training. Or she might be like Hagakure was, dainty and weak. He'll have to play it safe.

"Second, we have UA's resistant bad boy with a chip on his shoulder the size of Hokkaido, someone you all feel strongly about, Midoriya Izuku!"

The crowd boos. He's not even surprised. "'Chip on my shoulder the size of Hokkaido', yeah, I wonder why that is," he mutters, walking out and weathering the hate of the crowd. He doesn't look at them, either. Miruko said it would be fine if he taunted back, but his stomach feels ready to leap out of his stomach. If he curses the crowd he'll probably vomit. So he stares straight ahead, locking eyes with Uraraka, who shys away a little. He stops two or so meters in front of her, close enough to rush, far enough back to dodge.

"Uraraka, are you ready?" The brown haired girl looks at Midnight, then back up at her class in the stands. Izuku doesn't look with her, but he hears someone scream at her to go for it. She looks back at Izuku, steeling herself.

"Yeah."

"Midoriya, are you ready?"

Izuku takes a deep breath, shoving everything aside. His head clears a little. He smiles, wide and vicious. It gives him confidence. Fake confidence, but no one else knows that. "Bring it."

"Start!"

The whip cracks and Izuku takes a single step back. Uraraka had shifted just a moment before, clearly trying to rush him. So he shifts too, crouching down. He keeps his eyes centred on her hips, reading her movement. He raises his fists and she stretches her arms out, all ten of her fingers splayed. Time seems to slow. Those hands creep towards his face, each centimeter of distance taking hours. Izuku can't help it. He sees Shigaraki.

Ducking under her arms, Izuku shoulder checks Uraraka. She stumbles back, coughing. He snatches up her forearms, far enough down so she can't bend her wrists to tag him. Izuku pulls, jerking her forward and practically throwing her away from him. As he spins, he lets her go, sweeping her feet for good measure. Uraraka tumbles, rolling a meter or so on the ground. Izuku backs up again, heart racing.

Five point activation. There's no way it isn't. Why would anyone in their right mind attack like that if they weren't using a Quirk. f*ck. What is it? Is it like Shigaraki's decay? If it was, she probably wouldn't go right for the face. But people like Bakugo exist. Idiots who don't care for the safety of those they fight. sh*t. What can he—

Izuku ducks under another swipe, grabbing the offending arm and twisting it. Uraraka tries to shove him away, but Izuku keeps the pressure on. Her other hand flails backwards, trying to tag him. Izuku sweeps her legs out and shoves her forward at the same time, grabbing both of her arms. His grip is awkward, and Uraraka either knows this or instinctively fights harder because the arms slip out of his hands.

Izuku immediately jumps off of her, getting some breathing room. He hurriedly shrugs off his gym jacket as she stands, getting one arm out before he presses the attack once more. He punches her, right across the cheek. Her head snaps to the side, and spit goes flying. Izuku pulls off the rest of his jacket, catching first one of her hands and then the other, binding them in the cloth. He pulls her in close, squatting down, throwing her with all of his might. Her wrists take all the strain, and Uraraka hits the ground, back first with her hands still held in the jacket by Izuku.

He ties the jacket together, fashioning a shoddy knot with the fabric before jumping on her and manhandling her into a choke hold. She strains against both him and the jacket, but it's not enough. She can't grab his arms because of the jacket, and she can't pull the jacket off because he's putting pressure on her windpipe. He holds her there, counting to ten in his head, waiting.

"Uraraka can no longer fight back! Midoriya is the winner!"

The crowd blows up. Literally, almost. Every single body stands up at once, screaming bloody murder. The arena shakes from the collective weight, and the noise is loud enough to start a ringing in his ears. Izuku lets Uraraka go, untying the jacket. This does little to soothe the crowd, he boo, hiss, curse, and throw food down at the arena floor. Izuku stares up at them, blank faced.

Why? Why the hell is Bakugo allowed to give Tokage a concussion and nearly crack her head open on the pavement, but he's not allowed to fight a little dirty. It makes no sense. By all means he doesn't deserve a lot of cheers, but this? The way someone rips out their seat in the stands and chucks it at him? It makes his blood boil.

Izuku storms out of the arena, pissed beyond all rationality. He leaves Uraraka there, beaten. It's what everyone seems to do to him.

Notes:

People overvalue Uraraka, in my experience. She's not weak or fragile or dumb, but she's not strong. Her Quirk isn't, either. And I know there's the common trope of people having her yeet people into the sun but. She has to get close to do that. Can't people just. Grab on? It's why I'm of the belief that she was one of the weakest going into the festival. There's no way she would've pulled anything like that meteor shower if it weren't for Bakugo. So. Not weak, not strong either. Someone Izuku can hold a little respect for but also curb stomp. And hey, a through ass kicking is a great motivater. One thing she does have that a lot of people don't is drive to get back up and keep moving. I like that. She's not #5, though.

Sorry for the extra wait, I got busy yesterday and didn't have much time to write. Hope you enjoyed. Peace.

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Chapter 23

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Are you alright?"

Hagakure stops him in the hall, blocking his path to his private waiting room. Izuku nearly brushes her assied, but the worry in her voice stops him. He's mad. He can feel the blood rushing in his ears, and his breathing is ragged. But she's his friend. He trusts her, and shoving her away would only be worse in the long run.

"No," Izuku says, trying to shove his feelings into his shoes. "I'm not alright."

"Okay," Hagakure says, squeezing his shoulders. "It's fine. Um. Do you need a moment or?"

Izuku swallows and takes a deep breath. "Yeah. Definitely. I just need to sit for a sec."

"Alone, or…"

"It doesn't really matter. I just need to be away from them ," Izuku says, jerking his head in the direction of the stadium entrance. "I just… god, I hate everything." He backs away, leaning against the wall before sliding down to sit on the floor. "f*cking… why me? What did I do to deserve this? I get a little bit of distaste, but… am I really that hateable?"

"Sometimes," Hagakure says, sitting down next to him, "people just want to hate. It's easier to scream at someone else instead of looking in the mirror and seeing hats wrong with yourself."

"They could do with having the mirror broken over their heads," Izuku grumbles.

"Yeah, probably. But you don't deserve this. Anyone rational can see it."

"That makes it worse."

"I know. It… it sounds kinda selfish, but it hurt me to watch that happen to you. Same with Tesutesu, and if Tokage were awake she'd feel the same. I know a handful of people doesn't mean much when there's an entire stadium ready to rip you to shreds, but…"

"You guys help," Izuku says. "It's just hard, you know? Do I make a fuss about it or do I just keep moving? Neither are good options. I get hurt either way, and then I have to pick up my own pieces and keep going."

"I wish I could change their opinions for you. But I can't. No one could, not really."

"This whole thing's a mess."

"Yeah."

"I just wanna go home, but… I also want to win."

"I think everyone else feels the same."

"Really."

"Everyone you care about, I mean. Like, I'm not having fun. I'm about to go out and lose, probably. But I also want that medal. Miruko's rubbing off on us, huh?"

Izuku laughs a little. "Yeah, definitely."

"So what's it gonna be?"

"I'll keep fighting," Izuku decides. "If I lose I lose, if I win I win. Either way, I'm not dealing with the crowd."

"Alright," Hagakure says, standing. "I don't know how you'll manage that, but I know you'll think of a way. Good luck."

"You too," Izuku says, getting up. He extends a hand and Hagakure takes it. They clasp forearms, and Izuku pulls her in for a one armed hug. "Win, but if you can't, go down fighting."

Hagakure scoffs. "Like you wouldn't hold it over my head if I just forfeited."

"Yeah, well, I gotta make sure you get the memo," Izuku says, letting her go. "I'll be cheering you on from the stands."

"No."

"What?"

"Talk to Tesutesu," Hagakure says, though it comes out more like an order. "He needs it. Got it?"

"Got it."

She walks off, leaving Izuku to gaze down the hall. He doesn't know where Tesutesu's room is. They were all moved around before the first fight, and he might not even be in a room. Sighing, Izuku starts to walk down the hallway. He picks a door and knocks. It swings open and the Yaoyorozu girl from class 1-B appears.

"Wrong room?"

"Yep."

"The steel boy is two down, I think. I hope to see you in the final round."

The door shuts and Izuku is left with another batch of questions. Shoving them aside for later, he walks a few meters and knocks on the door. "Who's there?" Tesutesu's voice comes through the wood, muffled and tired.

"Midoriya. Is it alright if I come in?"

"It's unlocked."

Izuku turns the handle and steps inside, closing it behind him. Tesutesu sits at a table, staring at a wall. Izuku pulls a chair out and sits right in front of him, relaxing as best he can and avoiding eye contact. "If it makes you feel better, I think you could've won the whole thing if it weren't for that 1-C guy."

"It doesn't but I won't say no to you explaining how."

Izuku shrugs. "You're a hard counter to Todoroki. And on the off chance Bakugo is the one to move on, you could probably withstand his hits long enough to knock him out. You deserve to be at the top, man. Don't let your loss take that from you."

Tesutesu smirks. "'Deserve', huh? I don't really deserve anything."

"Yeah you do. You're worked hard. f*ck, we all have. And we're getting thrashed out there and having angst offs. It's not right."

"I think that your angst is justified."

"Then so is yours. You got screwed, right? Just like me. So mope a little but get back up and keep moving."

"I will," Tesutesu sighs, "I just need a second. That guy has a brainwashing Quirk, by the way?"

"Ah," Izuku says, understanding. "He got you."

"Yep. Asked me to not go easy on him, I opened my mouth, and, well…" Tesutesu shrugs. "The next thing I know I'm out of bounds and he's cursing me out."

"Yeesh, he sounds like a piece of work," Izuku says. "I'm gonna be fighting him next. Does he look fit?"

"He's skinny as a noodle," Tesutesu says. "Which pisses me off more because I could've rocked him. If I just kept my mouth shut and took everything seriously…"

"Hey, you didn't know his power. Anyone would have fallen for it. I definitely would've. Tokage, too. Now you know better, and now I know better. I'll kick his ass for you."

"Thanks, but that's nok what's got me like this. It's just… that Shinso guy kinda monologued after the match. And he said some things that… look, he basically said that he was screwed by the entrance exam and is fighting to make it into the hero course. I respect that, but, like… he called me out."

"For what?"

"Not being up to snuff, I guess. He was like 'Just turning into steel isn't anything like my power, but just because you're more flashy they took you over me'. He bitched about a few other kids, too. He knows his Quirk is seen as villainous but he knows it has power. So he sees people like me and even Todoroki as being privileged. And I can't help but agree right now…"

Izuku takes a deep breath and counts to ten in his head. It doesn't work. "Imma kill him."

"What? I thought you'd be on his side! That's half the reason I'm so bummed."

Izuku shakes his head, half tempted to smack Tesutesu. "No. I get being fed up and pissed off about the world. f*ck, I'm about ready to go up into those stands and teach the audience a lesson. And dealing with Bakugo my whole life… anyway, complain and moan about the world all you want. It's sh*tty, it's unfair, it probably deserves to burn." Izuku takes a deep breath, trying to keep himself from exploding. "But to sit there and whine to you while lording his Quirk over the rest of the contestants… He's skinny as hell, right?"

"Yeah."

"Yeah. I bet he walked into the entrance exam, saw the robots and didn't even try to do a damn thing. That and the fact that he got you all down is all I need to hate him."

"Excuse you?"

"Lazy," Izuku says like he's spitting out a slur. "Lazy, entitled, narcissistic. Like f*cking Bakugo, almost. He tried to go the easy way and then cried to Mommy when he didn't get the glory for doing nothing. And here he is, putting down people like you, who've worked their asses off to get to where they are."

"That's a little harsh, don't you think?" Tesutesu says. "Like. Dude, not everyone has the opportunity to get better like you did. You told all of us that if you hadn't met Miruko you wouldn't be worth anything."

"Yeah," Izuku says, "a kick in the ass is needed every now and then. I'm gonna give it to him."

"You're not doing this out of the kindness of your heart. There's no way."

"I am," Izuku insists, "just not for him. For you, though? You've been there for me. Not as long as Tokage or Miruko have, but there. And, well, no one f*cks with my friends and gets away with it."

Tesutesu raises an eyebrow, smiling a little. "That means you'll have to fight Bakugo again, for what he did to Tokage."

"Not a problem," Izuku says, "I've been wanting a hat trick for a while now."

Hagakure versus Bondo goes a little something like this: Midnight's whip cracks, and Hagakure immediately takes her jacket off. Bondo, already charging, stutters for a moment. Hagakure uses his moment of hesitation to rush him. Meeting halfway, she loops her jacket around his head with a jump, tugging the boy backwards as she lands behind him. Izuku goes nuts in the waiting room, talking animatedly with Tesutesu as Hagakure kicks the back of Bondo's knee.

"He's basically a glue gun," Izuku says, not bothering to hide his pride. "He shoots that sticky stuff right out of his head. Even if it's just partly covered, he's significantly weakened."

Of course, just because she had a good opening doesn't mean the fight's in the bag. Bondo is big, huge when compared to Hagakure. He pulls the jacket off of his face, lashing out with one arm, trying to knock her off her feet. Hagakure steps back, dodging the attack. She tackles Bondo, driving him into the cold arena floor. She gets back up right away, knowing she can't last in a grapple with the bigger boy.

Bondo stands, dousing the ground with glue or maybe hot wax. Izuku can't tell, but it's clearly sticky. Hagakure does her best to get out of the way, doing a remarkable job dodging and weaving, but some lands on her pants. It weighs her down, her movements less graceful and agile. Bondo capitalizes on this, spewing more wax in Hagakure's path. She jerks herself backwards, avoiding the bulk of it. But Bondo keeps spraying, covering the ground in a six meter radius. Hagakure gets stuck up to her ankles. She tries to get herself out, but Bondo finishes the job by getting her all the way up to her knees. Midnight calls the match with a crack of her whip, to the delight of the crowd and the disappointment of Izuku.

"It wasn't even that impressive," Tesutesu says, leaning away from the live video on Izuku's phone. "He just kidna shot everywhere. No control or anything."

"Yeah, Hagakure was a lot more impressive than him," Izuku agrees. "And, just. She did so well considering the match up."

Tesutesu agrees, and they watch the next match in silence. Tokoyami beats Ashido, though it's a close battle. Tokoyami isn't very maneuverable and relied on his Quirk to block Ahshido's acid. It was still a good match, Izuku's just a little disappointed that the entire festival is becoming a showcase of Quirks rather than skills and personality.

"The big guys next, right?" Tesutesu asks, referring to the bracket.

"Yeah, Bakugo and Todo—"

"Midoriya Izuku to entrance A, Shinso Hiroshi to entrance B."

"Wait. Shouldn't it be Bakugo and Todoroki first?"

Izuku stands and tosses Tesutesu his phone, already resigned to his fate. "Yeah, but guess what?"

"They're messing with you again?"

"Probably," Izuku agrees. "Show some brutal Quirkless fighting before they wow the crowd with some flashy assholes. This whole thing is kind of a circus, remember?"

"You flip back and forth between wanting to win and sh*tting on the entire tournament," Tesutesu observes. "What gives?"

"I'm living my childhood dream right now," Izuku explains, stepping towards the door. "I've wanted to fight in this thing since I was three. But now I'm here and it's awful."

"Ah."

"Yep."

Izuku closes the door, catching Tesutesu's muffled good luck. He walks down the hall, psyching himself up. He smiles, making his strides a little bit longer to get his blood pumping. He's not nervous in the slightest, which might be a little co*cky, but he can't bring himself to care. It's for Tesutesu, he argues, his co*ckiness is for his friend who got screwed over by the matchmaking. And he already knows his opponent. Being from the general course, Shinso probably hasn't had a lot of combat training, if any. There's only so much you can cram in before and after school, and while it would help, Izuku doubts the boy has thought to try anything. Considering how he talked to Tesutesu and all.

So Izuku walks out with his head held high when Present Mic calls his name, weathering the booing of the crowd. He gazes across the stands, seeing that he's got a lot of them to their feet. But there's also a few notable additions to the stands, people who weren't there before. Security guards, decked out with body armor and batons. He laughs. What else can he do? He's so hated that there needs to be extra guards put in place to keep the crowd from rioting.

"Oi, you," his opponent says, ignoring Present Mic's second intro. "Hero course, right?"

Izuku pretends not to hear, looking directly at the gigantic screen at the top of the arena. He can see his freckles, the thing's so zoomed in on his face. He gives the camera his best smile, waving at the angred crowd.

"I was talking to—"

"Midoriya, are you ready?" Midnight asks.

"Yeah."

"Shinso, are you ready?"

"Yes."

"Then fight!"

The crowd screams as Midnight's whip cracks. Izuku stays rooted in place, his suspicion that Shinso would try to use his Quirk instead of directly attacking proven right. "How does it feel to be hated?" Shinso asks, putting his hands in his pockets and looking at Izuku, compleatly at ease. "I mean, it must be new for you, being in the hero course. I bet you've had people bending over backwards for you all your life, and for what? A flashy Quirk? Give me a break. You got what you deserved for hurting that girl, don't try to scream injustice after a lifetime of privilege."

Izuku raises an eyebrow. It's so tempting to vent out everything, the pain, the trauma, the awful roller coaster that is his life. But he can't. He has to fight against the urge along with the anger building up in his gut. He thinks of Tesutesu, how defeated he looked after being knocked out, and if Tokage, still asleep, eager to wake to a win.

Izuku shrugs and looks at his nails, something that Shinso takes personally. "That guy told you, didn't he? You must be friends. Like follows like I guess, neither of you are worthy of being at UA."

It stings. Like a slap to the face, the damage is mostly superficial, and the pain is mostly to his rationality. But Izuku knows that it's what Shinso needs to win, so he smirks instead, finding amusem*nt in the fact that the boy has only tried one method of attack. Didn't anyone reach him other ways to get under people's skin? Or does he have an ego so big that all he knows is how to lord his superiority complex over everyone he meets?

"Don't just stand there! Answer me! You've already won, stop basking in your glory! End it now with that stupid Quirk you refuse to show off! UA's perfect for people like you, brash and full of themselves. You and that Bakugo boy—" Izuku sprints forward, punching Shinso as hard as he can, right in the chest. The boy doesn't even have the reflexes to dodge. He really is a weakling.

Shinso falls to the ground, weezing. He crawls away on his back, spouting out insult after insult. Izuku keeps a level head even though that dig about Bakugo really did get to him. He's lucky his first instinct was to lash out and not yell, otherwise he'd be knocked out.

"So that's your strategy, huh?" Shinso sneers, getting up. "Make an ass of me before you throw my dreams down the toilet? You deserve every bit of hatred—" Izuku punches him, high and slow. Anyone with a lick of experience would see it as a feint. Shinso ducks, covering his head. Izuku closes the rest of the distance, pivoting around the taller boy. He grabs Shinso's collar, pulling it with both hands. Shinso stumbles, falling backwards. Izuku starts to drag him, heading for the boundary line.

"Let me go! You bastard! co*cky, arrogant, privileged, hero course shi—" Izuku reaches the boundary line. Grabbing Shinso by the wrists, he spins. He only pivots halfway before releasing, and Shinso is thrown out of bounds. The match ends with the crack of a whip and the roar of the crowd.

Izuku stands there for a moment, taking it all in. But something tingles in the back of his mind, and he looks over. He sees Shinso, sitting on the ground and glaring downwards. Against his better judgement, Izuku walks over to him.

"That was for f*cking with my friend," he says, holding out a hand. "This is so you can stop being a whiny mess and actually grow."

Shinso glares up at him. He smacks Izuku's hand away and stands, spitting at his shoes. Izuku watches him go, a little disappointed but not enough to let it get to him. Those who don't want to get better don't deserve to, he decides. And he probably burned any potential friendship the moment he walked into the arena. But that's fine. He already has friends who care, and they're good enough to get him through the rest of the day.

Notes:

Did Izuku just project both himself and Bakugo onto Shinso and then wreck the guy out if self loathing and hatred for his former bully? Maybe.
I know Shinso is often a friend in Quirkless Izuku fics, but I want to be different. Not just for the sake of being different, but also because I don't think he'd be good for Izuku. At least, not for a while. He'd remind Izuku too much of himself like he already did, and, well. Izuku hates how he was before Miruko. So it wouldn't be good for either of them. And Shinso needed a boot to the ass anyway. I hope you enjoyed.

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Chapter 24

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"I don't get why they hate you."

"I mean. He's Midoriya."

"Hey! I'm a perfectly nice person! I don't know what you're insinuating with that dig."

"I'm insinuating that you're easy to hate."

"Okay, but why?" Hagakure swings her legs back and forth as she sits on the edge of a medical cabinet. Tokage, now awake but a little woozy, shrugs from her bed.

"Beats me. He tore into one kid, which I kinda get, but like. It's one little argument. And everyone could tell that you were fired up for a reason."

"It's bullsh*t," Izuku agrees. "People just want someone to hate. I'm just the guy they ran with."

"It doesn't help that you beat the snot out of a bunch of girls," Tesutesu ads. "Like. No hate for the 1-B girls, but. They look dainty, y'know? I mean, Uraraka looks so kind, and those girls you knocked out in the second event weren't exactly intimidating. Other than the ginger one."

"Sexism," Hagakure says bitterly.

"Ditto," Tokage agrees, "but I want a little bit of sympathy. I got f*cking dropped and sent here with a concussion. Has anybody screamed at Bakugo to be disqualified?"

"Nah," Izuku says. "It's bullsh*t, too. You got it way worse than any of my opponents."

"It makes sense," Tesutesu says.

"How?"

"Well, like. We all grew up watching heroes take out villains with Quirks, right? We're used to that kind of stuff. So when Tokage gets clapped and sent to the med bay, it's normal. Expected, even. But when you knock a girl out with a punch and then choke another one out…"

"That's bullsh*t."

"It's true."

"Yeah, but it's still bullsh*t." Izuku leans back in his chair, resting his head on his hands. "I didn't even hurt them that much. Not like Bakugo did to Hagakure. And just because I didn't use a Quirk I get to be the villain of the whole tournament? It's not fair."

"Yeah. What're you gonna do about it?"

"I dunno."

"But you said you had a plan?" Hagakure says, leaning forward a little. "Like. You'll do something right?"

Izuku shrugs. "I will. I just need to think of something."

"You might wanna hurry it up," Tokage says. "There's only so much time left. How many fights are there until the semi finals?"

"Three. Yaoyorozu verses Ibara, Todoroki verses Bakugo, and Tokoyami verses Bondo."

"I think Todoroki is going to win the whole thing." Izuku looks at the TV mounted on the wall, which displays highlights from previous fights as they wait for the next one to start. He watches as his fight with Shinso is played in its entirety, being so short. The TV announcers, at least, don't seem to hate him. But they fully acknowledge the crowd's anger.

"You sure?" Tokage asks. "You and Bakugo have a shot."

Izuku snorts. "Bakugo won't be Todoroki. He's at a massive disadvantage. His Quirk relies on sweat while Todoroki makes ice. And he's been out of class for weeks. He's probably not as sharp as the rest of us."

"Still, if Bakugo wins he'd have a shot," Tesutesu says. "So do you, if I'm honest. If you fight Todoroki you're screwed, but you can take Bakugo."

"Yeah, but what about after that?" Izuku twiddles his thumbs, considering who's still in the running. "I can't win against Ibara. Not in a tournament setting. Tokoyami would wipe the floor with me before I even got close. Bondo would be my best bet—I think I could hit him hard enough before he got the chance to lock me down—but he'll probably get knocked out. And that 1-B girl…"

"Have you seen her fight?" Hagakure asks.

"Just the one she had with Jiro. She made a speaker and blew out her eardrums, right?"

"Basically, yeah." Hagakure stands and pulls out her phone. She taps it a few times and hands it to Izuku. It's open to a video, and Izuku presses play. "She can make stuff out of her fat, I think," she explains as a clip of Yaoyorozu pulling a bo staff out of her stomach plays. It's from the first event, and she uses it to fend off a few attackers skillfully. "No one knows anything else, but if she can make something like a speaker…"

"She could make a counter to every Quirk if she wanted," Izuku finishes, handing the phone back. "So she's basically a shoe-in for the finals. Unless someone can knock her out before she gets the chance to make anything."

"Could you beat her?"

Izuku snorts. "No. She's a recommendation student, right?"

"Yeah," Tokage answers. "I wasn't in her group, but she did really well. And her family's loaded so she's probably had all sorts of extra training and junk."

"Yeah. So I'm kinda screwed."

"f*ck off with that, you've got a shot."

"No I don't."

"Dude, you definitely do. If you wind up facing Yaoyorozu or Bondo the medal's yours."

"I just said I couldn't beat Yaoyorozu."

"Lies."

"Are you trying to tell me that I don't remember what I said two seconds ago?"

"No. I'm just saying you're lying about not being good enough to beat her."

"That's not even the main problem. Todoroki is going to win this thing. Thinking anything else is just fantasy."

"Nah. You're better than them."

"No I'm not."

"Yeah you are. You could take Tokoyami and Ibara for sure. Yaoyorozu would be a cake walk."

"You're lying to me and I don't appreciate it."

"We're not lying. You just have to stop selling yourself short."

"I'm not selling myself short!" Izuku yells, quickly taking a deep breath to calm down. "I just… I'm not worthless. I know that. But against them? Even against you guys? I'm not as good, objectively speaking. Especially in a tournament," he quickly adds, seeing the looks of protest on his friends' faces. "It's different in combat exercises. I can plan, then, and play to my strengths. But here? f*ck, I almost got merced by Bakugo in the pre-elims. I could hold my own against him again, maybe even win. But everyone else? There isn't a chance.

"I know what you're trying to do," Izuku continues, sniffing a little. "I appreciate it. Really, I do. But it's not helping at all. I don't want lies or false hope. I'm trying to be realistic. On any other day I'd take what you said and run with it. But not today. I'm just so tired. I try to act like I know what I'm doing. I try to talk like I have a plan. But I don't. The crowd, my bracket, watching you guys lose. It gets to me. And I just… I don't want to get my hopes up just to go home with a bronze medal."

"Alright," Tesutesu says slowly. "That's a lot to unpack. Um. You're not wrong?"

"Dude!"

"What? He just told us not to lie to him. Don't coddle him right after that!"

"Whatever," Tokage mutters before turning to glare at Izuku. "You're f*cking tired. So what? What does Miruko always say?"

"'I'm going to bang your mom'?"

"Not helping, Hagakure. I'm being serious. What does she always tell you?"

"Do you want the full list or my top ten favorites?" Izuku says.

"No excuses," Tokage answers for him. "Zero. None at all. You're making a lot of excuses."

"They're pretty reasonable ones if you ask me."

"So? When do you care about reason? You fought a f*cking biological superweapon made to kill All Might. You're probably the most unreasonable person I've ever met."

"You should back off a little," Hagakure interjects.

"No. I think he needs to hear this. You're about ready to give up, aren't you?"

"No, I'm going to fight, but—"

"See? There it is. But. f*ck that. f*ck your excuses, too, they're going to drag you down."

"It's just the Sports."

"'Just the Sports Festival,'" Tokage says, clearly sarcastic. "It's still a big deal. And even if it wasn't, if you give up or falter here, you'll start to do the same in other areas."

"I won—"

"You can't predict the future."

"Neither can you! You're driven, more than any of us, but you could still give up."

"I would never."

"Then go out there and win. I don't care if you've got every disadvantage. Win. If you happen to lose, we'll be here for you," Tokage says, her eyes boring into Izuku's own with fiery intensity. "We'll be here when you win, too. You can give out at the end of the day. That's fine. We're your friends, we'll build you back up. But right now? Get the job done before you collapse."

Izuku snorts. "That's going to be the death of me."

"As long as you get it done, I don't give a sh*t," Tokage says in just the way that Izuku knows she's lying. "I wanna see you up on the podium, rubbing the gold in Bakugo's face, ya dig? Do it for yourself, obviously, but do it for me, too."

"You're one selfish bitch."

"Yeah," Tokage admits. "We all are sometimes. Not that it changes much."

"No," Izuku agrees, smiling a little. "It doesn't."

Recovery Girls comes in a few minutes later, quickly checking over Tokage before kicking them all out. The four of them make their way to the stands, cutting through the competitor's waiting rooms on the way. They walk past a few doors, the roar of the crowd making the building shake.

"There's a countdown until the next match, right?" Tokage asks. "I saw a clock while I was waiting for mine."

"Yeah," Hagakure says. "it's to build anticipation, I think. Anyways, do—"

A door swings open, slamming into the wall and forcing the four of them to start. Bakugo walks out, drenched in sweat. His hair sticks to his face and neck, and drops of the stuff fall to the floor. He's breathing heavily, and his clothes look like they've gained a few kilos of water weight. Bakugo turns to look at them, mustering up a sneer before stomping off towards his entrance.

"He's going to kill somebody," Tesutesu says.

"Yeah," Izuku agrees. "I think we should sit higher up, what about you guys?"

No one objects so Izuku leads them to the stands. They pass where 1-A and 1-B sit, drawing a few curious glances and glares from the hero students. They climb all the way to the top of the bottom-most level of seats, sitting down a few rows above the support students who tinker with their gadgets, uncaring for the fight soon to begin.

"Hey-oh!" Mic screams, his enhanced voice echoing through the arena. "We're just about to begin! Are. You. Ready!?" The crowd cheers in glee, fully aware that what's coming will be a huge spectacle. "That's what I love to hear! Let's introduce our contestants, shall we?

"In one corner, weighing in at seventy-two kilos and standing at a meter seventy-six, the son of Endeavor himself, the Heart-throb of 1-A, Todoroki Shoto!"

"'Heart-throb of 1-A?'" Izuku repeats, unsure of whether to laugh or be appalled. "He's really struggling with these nicknames."

"You're telling me," Tesutesu agrees. "I mean. It's Todoroki."

"I think he's quite handsome," Hagakure defends.

"You have sh*t taste," Tokage reprimands. "Who the hell wants to go out with bargain-bin Zuko?"

"'Bargain-bin Zuko,' oh my god. I—"

"And in the opposite corner we have seventy kilos of pure explosiveness, black sheep of the general course, and palms sweaty enough to kill ya, Bakugo Katsuki!" The crowd cheers again as Bakugo takes his position, glaring at everything in existence. It gives Izuku immense satisfaction to watch him scream up at Mic for his introduction.

"That was a much better one."

"Yep."

Mic lets the excitement of the crowd build, hyping the fight up like it's the final match. After a few minutes, he finally screams, "Let's get this show started!"

The cheers drown out Midnight's pre-match check in, but Izuku can tell from how the two boys tense that they're both ready. Midnight raises her whip, twirling it between her fingers before she snaps her arm back. The crack is lost to the impenetrable noise of the crowd, but Bakugo and Todoroki don't need it. They're already raring to go before the whip snaps into a different direction. Plans glowing and breath freezing, colossal forces meet halfway. But not like Izuku predicted.

Instead of attacking at the same time, Todoroki's ice launches before Bakugo's explosions. In fact, Bakugo is dangerously slow to counter, to the point where Izuku's sure he'll be trapped in ice. But a split second before the cold reaches his shoe, Bakugo holds one hand out, bracing it with another as he crouches. He sparks.

The size of the explosion is comparable to the force of Bakugo's gauntlets. The amount of sweat needed to pull something off must be massive. Shards of ice fly into the air, and a cold wind blows Izuku's hair back. The crowd screams, gleefully cheering the boys on.

The air, full of frost and ice, clears. Izuku gets a good look at them from both the screens and by looking down at the arena. Bakugo's arm isn't shattered. He didn't have to worry about having his form messed up this time, but the way he holds the hand he used close to his chest shows that there was still backlash. Bakugo stands tall, though, stubborn and fighting through the pain and exhaustion. His shoulders are slumped and he breathes through his mouth. Todoroki, on the other hand, blinks it all off. There's still a bit of ice between them, making a direct charge on Bakugo's end foolish if not impossible.

Izuku watches as the taller boy's eyes go from Bakugo to Bakugo's hand and then to his own. Almost nonchalantly, Todoroki raises his hand again and lets the ice pour out. But Bakugo is ready, and this time he doesn't hold his ground. Blasting off into the air with his weak hand, he narrowly avoids the incoming ice. Bakugo continues to propel himself, face screwing in pain as his bad wrist strains under the force of the explosions. But his other hand stays at his side, ready to go off, probably in Todoroki's face.

Adjusting to the new angle of attack, Todoroki steps forward. Ice forms at his feet, rising directly into the air. At the same time, he uses his hand to block off his right side, forcing Bakugo to veer left. Forced to change directions, Bakugo uses his good hand. Face showing nothing but concentration, Bakugo blows himself to his right, underestimating his power and going a few extra meters. But it saves him rather than dooming him.

Todoroki raises his left hand, clearly wanting to shoot Bakugo out of the sky. But he can't. So instead, he's forced to shift, crossing his right hand over his chest as the air around him dips in temperature. Bakugo keeps moving at the same trajectory, baiting out another wall of ice. Todoroki takes the bait, blinding himself with his own power. Izuku's at the wrong angle to see, but the screens in the arena aren't. He shifts his attention there, watching as Bakugo starts to go in the opposite direction, trying to flank Todoroki. However, his explosions are much too loud.

As Bakugo turns around the wall of ice, he's met with another one, aimed right at his face. Shocked, he does what comes naturally. He uses his built up sweat to blow it away. It nearly sends him out of bounds, but another blast from both hands saves him. His landing, however, is rough, and he takes a tumble as he hits the ground.

By now, the bottom of the arena is a winter wonderland. Ruins of ice towers dot the floor, fang-like in texture. Smaller bits of ice, some the size of grains of sand, lay on top of the frigged concrete like snow. The air itself is foggy, the water vapor visible.

"This is it," Izuku hears Hagakure say. "Bakugo's done. Look at him, he's shivering."

And he is. Shaking like a leaf in his now frozen gym uniform, Bakugo gets to his feet. His wrists are visibly swollen, and one of his shoulders looks off. He lets off a series of small explosions, trying to warm his hands. But it's futile. Even if he gets a little bit warmer, it won't be enough to get him back in the fight, and in the time it would take to do that, Todoroki could end it anyway. It's over for him. But…

"Todoroki is shivering too."

Down in the area, frosted lips part. Todoroki clenches his shaking jaw, hiding how cold he is as he stands, stock still. He's waiting for something. Izuku's not sure what it is. Maybe he wants to warm up a little before attacking again. Maybe he wants to play defense. But whatever it is, Todoroki glares as Bakugo laughs at him. It's hard to read lips, even when looking at the massive screens, but Izuku knows Todoroki is getting an earful of Bakugo's ravings. Bakugo starts to march forward, brandishing his hands as he treks across the ice.

Todoroki tenses as Bakugo nears, shifting into a defensive stance. He holds his right arm out, hand balled into a fist. Frost spreads along his arm, making him shiver even more. Bakugo continues to approach, breaking into a run as he makes it past the patches of ice on the ground. Todoroki starts to run, too, thinking that he needs to be closer to end the fight. The two meet in the middle, ice clashing against fire. But the ice is significantly stronger, more so than either of them expected.

A chunk forms around Todoroki's right hand as he grabs Bakugo's shirt. As it spreads, explosions ring out, weak and almost useless. Eyes wide, Todoroki tries to pull away. But his arm is already stuck to Bakugo's torso. Bakugo lashes out at Todoroki, striking him across the face with a plam of heat. Todoroki hits back, punching Bakugo in the ribs. They can't separate, but Todoroki is the only one who can still win. So he starts to freeze more of Bakugo, locking down his legs as he tries to get as far away as possible. Bakugo is much too stubborn, however.

He grabs Todoroki by the neck, pulling him close and forcing the ice to cover it's maker. Soon the two of them only have a limb each. Todoroki's left hand and Bakugo's right foot. Neither of them can attack, and neither of them can move. Even if Todoroki freezes Bakugo solid, he'll be stuck, too.

"Both Bakugo and Todoroki are immobilized! The match is a tie!"

Notes:

And now, by UA's logic, Izuku will have to fight both of them in the semi finials. Jk but Izuku's next fight will be interesting no matter what. I hope. Anyways, the next chapter will have a few fights and the lead up to the finals. I'm not sure how long the actual finial round will be, but it'll get it's own chapter along with the medal ceremony. I hope you enjoyed.

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Chapter 25

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Okay, bets on who Midoriya is going to be fighting. Todoroki, Bakugo, or both."

"Both."

"Both."

"To—hey!" Izuku glares at his friends who snicker. "I… okay maybe my luck is that bad, but UA would have to do a major ass pull to justify both of them."

"I think they could manage," Tokage says, smiling as she gazes down at the arena. "I mean. Aizawa's already got a massive stick up his ass, surely they could pull a little out."

"Gross," Hagakure says, cringing a little.

"Yeah, we didn't need that imagery," Tesutesu agrees. "Anyways, if I'm being honest, they'll probably have a rematch or some kind of tiebreaker."

"But what kind of tiebreaker?" Izuku wonders out loud. "I don't think they'll fight outright again. Not when they're both beat up pretty good. Maybe a race?"

"I'm not sure either," Hagakure says. "If I had to guess… maybe a vote from the audience?"

"That would be really weird."

"Yeah, but think about it." Hagakure taps her chin, or at least Izuku thinks she does. Her sleeves angle upwards and her torso leans forward. "This is about showing the pros and the world what we have to offer, right? And Bakugo and Todoroki are obviously going to be really popular heroes when they graduate. Why shouldn't they get a miniature popularity contest when they'll be having a massive one every year after they've gone pro?"

"That… actually makes sense," Izuku says. "I mean, they're both flashy and annoying, but a popularity contest might make them realize how awful their personalities are."

"It would be a UA thing to do," Tesutesu ads.

"Nah, it'd be an Aizawa thing to do," Tokage corrects. "Actually, is he even watching? He's our homeroom teacher and all."

"He's up in the press box," Hagakure says.

"Really?"

"Yep."

"And he hasn't said a word?"

"Yeah."

"That tracks."

"He's probably napping up there, the lazy ass," Tokage says, casting a look up to the press box. "I mean, you'd think he'd be better at catching up on sleep. He hardly does anything all day."

"I'm flattered that you think so highly of me."

Izuku almost jumps out of his seat as Aizawa speaks from the steps beside their sections of seats. Tokage doesn't correct herself or try to play innocent, even as Aizawa stops just outside their row. "What's up?" Tesutesu says, clearly nervous. Aizawa ignores him.

"Tokage, follow me."

"Why?"

"Just do it."

"Can I get a reason?"

"No."

"Oh. Well then I'm not going."

"Do it or you're expelled."

Aizawa leaves no room for argument. Tokage stands with a huff and follows him down the steps. Weirdly, they stop near where the rest of the class is sitting. Koda joins them and they leave through one of the nearby entrances as Present Mic announces the next fight between Tokoyami and Bondo.

"I don't like where this is going," Izuku mutters, trying to connect the dots.

"If they're pulling people already knocked out then Todoroki and Bakugo must be in bad shape," Tesutesu points out. "Maybe you're getting thrown a bone."

"Let's not get too hopeful. Tokage has a fair shot of beating me and there's no way Koda would choose to fight again."

"Yeah, but you might not have to fight Todoroki or Bakugo," Hagakure argues. "I'd call that a good thing."

"I… is it bad I kind of want to fight Bakugo again?"

"He'd whip your ass so yeah."

"I can win against him."

"You did it once," Hagakure agrees.

"Twice," Izuku corrects.

"Alright, twice, then. But you saw what he pulled against Todoroki. He hates you enough to do the same."

"I could still find a way to win."

"I'm not saying you can't, I'm just saying it'd be hard and we'd have to scrape one of you off the floor at the end of it."

"Fair enough."

The next fight starts before Tokage gets back. Tokoyami and Bondo shuffle around each other for a bit, unsure of each other's strengths and weaknesses. Eventually Bondo tries to repeat what he did to Hagakure. His wax floods the floor, trapping Tokoyami. But Tokoyami's Quirk is a literal sentient shadow. A sentient shadow that moves independently of Tokoyami. Bondo hopelessly tries to evade and fight back as Dark Shadow chases him. Wax sticks to the purple and back darkness, slowing Dark Shadow a little. But it's not nearly enough. Bondo is eventually cornered at the edge of the arena. He lets off one final salvo of wax, but Dark Shadow simply shoves right through, forcing him out of bounds. Tokoyami is declared the winner.

Ibara versus Yaoyorozu is announced the second Tokage sits back down in her seat. Dubbed the battle of the class reps by Present Mic, the crowd goes wild as the two girls enter. Tokage even joins in, cheering for Ibara even though the girl has been… cold to Izuku and his friends.

"What did Aizawa want?" Izuku asks and Ibara begins to pray before the match begins.

"That's a secret," Tokage says, smirking as she fidgets in her sleep.

"Can you tell us this secret?" Tesutesu asks.

"I could but I don't wanna." Tokage cups her hands around her mouth and stands. "Beat her ass, Ibara!"

"It's scary that you came back happy after meeting with Aizawa," Hagakure says. "I mean. What did he do to you?"

"Nothing. But I got to annoy the hell out of him."

"Is that a hint?"

"I dunno. Shut up and watch the fight."

Izuku tries to get a word in but Present Mic cuts him off by starting the countdown. The crowd cheers louder every time he calls out a number, some jumping up and down. They know they're in for something interesting. Between Ibara's vines and Yaoyorozu's interesting creation/summoning Quirk, the fight will definitely be something else. Finally, Mic hits zero, and Midnight cracks her whip.

Vines dig into the ground, spinning as they overturn the earth. Yaoyorozu rushes, shrugging off her jacket and reaching for her stomach. Ibara's vines burst up behind Yaoyorozu, quickly turning to chase after her and Ibara uses more of her hair to attack from the front. But Yaoyorozu clearly didn't rush without a plan. Her gut glows red and blue, and she pulls two small objects out of her own body. A bottle of what looks like spray paint and a cigarette lighter.

Izuku can't tell exactly what she has, but the moments after she halts her charge leave no opportunity for an incorrect guess. Yaoyorozu pops the cap off the lid of the bottle and holds it in front of her. Ibara's eyes go wide as she pushes down on the tip of the bottle and sparks the lighter. Ibara gets a face full of fire, but only for a split second. Yaoyorozu pivots on her heel, turning to blast the larger mass of vines that originally burrowed into the ground. Detached from Ibara's body, they shrivel up and carbonize. The fire quickly spreads and dies, consuming all of the green in one fell swoop. Yaoyorozu discards her can and lighter and turns to face Ibara.

It was hard to tell which one of them was more prepared for the fight. Because they're both rather stoic looking individuals and the time Izuku got to study them beforehand was brief. But now he can say that, without a doubt, it was Yaoyorozu. The way she throws her can of fire starter or whatever at Ibara, making the girl flinch, and the way she started to make or summon a new item before the vines were even dead—it all shows that she's smart and had more than a little experience. And then she pulls an entire flamethrower out of her stomach, brandishing it with her finger on the trigger, and Izuku realizes that even if he makes it go the final round, and even if he acknowledges any of his potential opponents, he'll be fighting a recommendation student if he makes it to the finals.

"sh*t."

"Yeah, Ibara's f*cked."

"I think I might be f*cked."

"We'll have to wait and see."

"I… yeah." Izuku leans back in his seat as Ibara forfifts. He chuckles a little as Yaoyorozu throws her flamethrower away like it's a plastic toy. Either she's stupid strong or it was a fake. Both are good reasons to be wary of her in a fight and they're not mutually exclusive.

"You're gonna be fighting her," Tokage says, leaning towards him, "any questions about her Quirk?"

"I might lose in the next round," Izuku replies, "and technically she could too."

"Nah."

"Excuse you?"

"Nevermind. Do you want to know about her Quirk or not?"

"Tell me what you know."

"Alright," Tokage says, "she can either store stuff inside of her or make the stuff she uses. Either way there's a limit to what she can do. I remember hearing her say something about being hungry after the recommendation exam, and she looked a lot skinnier too."

"I'll lean closer to her making things," Izuku decides. "If it were just storage, she probably wouldn't mention being hungry. And there's also a chance the rules would force her to start with an empty tank. She probably uses her own mass to make her tools."

"She must be really heavy and dense, then," Tesutesu joins in. "She's made loads of stuff today already. A speaker, an electric scooter, even a cannon."

"Yeah, but Quirks are weird," Hagakure argues. "I'm invisible and refract all light, but I can still see somehow."

"There's more important things than her weight," Izuku says, trying to move the discussion along. "Tokage, what exactly did Yaoyorozu do in the recommendation exam?"

"She—"

"Attention all competitors and spectators!" Midnight shouts from the bottom of the arena, her voice amplified to reach all the way to the people in the top boxes. "We have an important announcement to make about the semi finals! Bakugo and Todoroki's match ended in a draw, and both suffered heavy injuries. Bakugo was heavily dehydrated and had several fractures in his hands and wrists, and Todoroki had a mixture of skin burns and extreme hypothermia. Both have been healed and will make a full recovery. However, neither are in a condition to fight. They are simply too exhausted as a result of the healing process.

"Event organizers have attempted to convince Tokage and Koda—both of whom were eliminated in the first round by Bakugo and Todoroki—to fight in the next round. Both have declined. While we could use other combatants from the other side of the bracket, the head organizer decided that such a thing would not be right. Therefore… Midoriya Izuku will not have a fight in the semifinals and will automatically move on to the final round via a bye!"

"You've gotta be sh*tting me."

"Surprise!" Tokage cheers. "Thank me for getting you to the finals, would you? It'll make me feel good."

"I'm not thanking you," Izuku says, staring down at Midnight in disbelief. "I… holy sh*t."

"Yeah, I know! And—"

The crowd starts to boo, cutting Tokage off before she can truly begin. Luckily, no one knows where Izuku is sitting. Unluckily, that does little to calm the thousands of people. Midnight tries to calm them, assuring everyone watching that the winner of Yaoyorozu v. Tokoyami will be given ample resting time. But it doesn't work. People boo and hiss, trying to reverse a decision they had no sway in making. Sick of it, Izuku stands.

"I'm going to my waiting room. I wanna streatch and get warm. Maybe think of a plan, too."

"Do you want us to come with?"

"No. I want to be alone for a bit."

The noise of the crowd dulls as Izuku walks through the inside of the arena. He makes his way through the spectator's halls, catching a few glares from people buying snacks. It feels like a walk of shame. It's depressing. If he were anyone else he'd be getting praise. It's just his stupid luck that he got drafted to play the heel. But crying won't really do anything about it. Actually, it would make it worse. He'd only get mocked and hated even more. And he'd be giving the crowd what they want. They want to break him. They want him to give up. But Izuku won't let them win. He decided a while ago that he'd spit back at the world for the hand it delt him. It's high time he started doing it again.

Izuku keeps his head up as he walks to his room. He doesn't glare or exchange barbed words, but he doesn't flinch away. He refuses to let himself. Instead he looks people in the eyes as they glare at him, tricking them and himself into believing it had not effect. Most look away, and it fuels both his anger and hai confidence. He being hated on my a bunch of cowards. People who would never dare to scream at him face to face but happily scream and shout from afar. At least Bakugo had the guts to vent his hatred and egotistical bullsh*t right to him.

Once he gets to his waiting room, Izuku stretches. He takes his time, working through every part of the body with both static and dynamic. He jogs a little, just taking laps around the room to warm up. After a half hour of this, he turns on the TV to watch the next fight. Tokoyami loses to Yaoyorozu, but the way it happened makes Izuku think.

Tokoyami hesitated right at the start. Dark Shadow is obviously weak to light, and Yaoyorozu's Quirk makes her skin glow when she uses it. So he shyed away, looking for a different opening. And then Yaoyorozu threw a flash bang right in his face. On his phone, Izuku watches it over and over. The process of making the grande wasn't instant, and in every other fight, it took time to make the tools and gadgets. Not much—usually just a second or so—but in a fight, time is precious.

Izuku starts to go over the known variables. Yaoyorozu uses her own mass to make things. It takes time to make her creations, and it's very possible that the bigger the things are, the more time it takes. And the complexity is probably a factor as well. Why risk bluffing with a fake flamethrower when you could make a real one in the same amount of time? She's also physically bigger than him, likely heavier too. Her reaction speed is good, at least in terms of noticing new things. But in terms of actual movement she's a little slow. Her turns aren't sharp, and she doesn't like to jump. She's graceful on her feet, but doing so clearly takes heavy concentration. Concentration she can't use on her Quirk.

Gradualy, a plan begins to form.

Notes:

Hands up if you saw that coming. None of you? Nah, I'm sure someone at least thought of it. Izuku deserves a little break for the sh*t I've been putting him through. Anyways, I'll finish the festival in the next one. After that we'll get some breathing room and a little comedy. Maybe a dose of good feels, too. Or at least something a lot of you have been wanting for a while. I hope you enjoyed.

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Chapter 26

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Are you ready?"

"Yeah!"

"Huh? I couldn't hear you. I said, are. You. Ready!?"

The arena shakes, feet stomping the floor in a frenzy for blood. People scream and shout, chanting and swinging banners in the air. Izuku looks out at the battlefield awaiting him, hands clenched so tight his knuckles are white. He feels his stomach flip, and if he hadn't avoided food for the last few hours, he's sure he would be throwing up. But he had a plan. A good plan. He knows he can win. It's just a matter of not messing up.

"I love to hear it! Let's offer a welcome to our finalists, shall we? I don't want to keep them waiting…

"In the first corner, we have Yaoyorozu Momo! A recommendation student, she ranks top of her class in both academics and combat ability! You've seen her craft her way through the rounds to carve out a spot in the last match! You know how scary she can be if given time to think! She's a shining star of our hero course! Give it up for Yaoyorozu!"

Izuku watches as his opponent steps out of her entrance. She smiles and waves to the crowd, prompting more screaming. Increasingly, she's gotten rid of her jacket and shirt, leaving just her bra. Yaoyorozu doesn't seem like the type to go for a 'distracted by the sexy' approach, which sends Izuku's mind down a rabbit hole.

"For our second combatant…"

Why would she do that? There has to be a reason. She's fifteen and mega rich. There's no way it's just fanservice.

"You all seem to feel strongly about him."

It's definitely to get a leg up on him. Does she think he won't try to close the gap just because she's shirtless? That's stupid. He was merciless against that Uraraka girl, Yaoyorozu should know or at least be able to guess that he doesn't give a sh*t about that sort of stuff.

"And the boy is definitely passionate about… well, everything. You have to be to make it this far."

But maybe… it's a different kind of deterrent.

"He's a survivor of the USJ incident, just like the rest of his class. He's proved himself to be feisty and resilient to all forms of difficulty, and he definitely doesn't care about how you feel about him."

Yaoyorozu's Quirk works through her skin. The more skin she has exposed, the bigger her creations can be. But that's not it.

"I want all of you to wish a warm welcome to 1-A's class rep, friend to some, rival to all…"

The more skin she has exposed, the more places she can create from. So if Izuku tries to pick her up from behind and go for a throw, she could create something real nasty to get him to drop her, or even end the fight. But that just makes him smile, wide and vicious. He doesn't plan on going for a grapple.

"Midoriya—!"

Izuku steps out onto the lawn, waving at the cameras and the crowd. There's booing and hissing, nothing he didn't expect. He shoulders on, keeping his smile glued to his face. It only seems to infuriate them further, something that makes Izuku laugh. They're getting worked up by a teenager. What a bunch of losers.

After climbing up the stone platform, Izuku stops a good ten meters away from Yaoyorozu. He greets her with a nod, and she nods back, face set in stone. Off to the side, Midnight cracks her whip to subdue the crowd.

"The final match between Yaoyorozu Momo and Midoriya Izuku is about to begin. Yaoyorozu, are you ready?"

"Yes."

"Midoriya, are you ready?"

"Yeah."

Midnight looks up to the press box and gives Mic the thumbs up. The crowd cheers. Midnight's whip rises into the air. Izuku watches it from the corner of his eye. He goes over his plan again as it starts to come down. Keep her on the backfoot. Don't give her time to create. Force her to the edge. Rinse and repeat until victory is achieved. But of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

"Begin!"

Izuku doesn't let himself hesitate. He forces himself forward, grinning like mad. He sees a flicker of red and blue. Yaoyorozu shifts back and reaches for her stomach, holding an arm out to guard. Izuku doesn't stutter. Fluidly, he plants one foot and hops. From Yaoyorozu's point of view, he's trying to stop, trying to dive right into her. She backs away instinctively, keeping her balance. The glow of her Quirk dips, just a little. Just enough for Izuku to shift his weight to the other foot and push off the ground. He snaps in the other direction, grabbing the arm that reaches for Yaoyorozu's stomach.

Yaoyorozu tries to turn. She makes a valid attempt to hit him across the face. But Izuku puts every muscle in his body to the task of moving her. It's not quite a throw, but he spins a hundred and eighty degrees, jumping and throwing his hips as he lets go of her wrist. She's heavy. Even with all the force he put into it, Yaoyorozu only got a half meter off the ground and tumbled two. But it's two meters closer to the edge. Two meters closer to victory.

Yaoyorozu stands. Izuku lets her, taking a few steps forward. He watches as she shifts in her stance, studying him. She knows damn well the second she tries to make anything, he'll rush her. And, judging by her hesitation, he's just close enough to get there in time. He's found the sweet spot. Close enough to be a threat, far enough away to react to any attack of her own she might launch.

Izuku smirks, and she takes a second to notice it. Her expression sours, and the crowd grows restless due to the lack of action. Izuku fakes like he's going to charge again. Just a single stutter-step. Yaoyorozu tenses but doesn't flinch. Izuku continues to shuffle around, moving his feet like a boxer, only less flashy. He doesn't need to redistribute his weight to throw a haymaker. He just needs to test something.

Three steps forward. A jerk to the right. Two steps back. One more forward. To the right. Left. Shuffle back. Then forth. Yaoyorozu keeps up with his fiddling, eyes glued to his hips. She holds her ground, not willing to back up towards the boundary line. Every time he fakes going in, she shifts to looking at his chest and torso. She knows he likes to punch. She knows kicks are stupid for him in this situation. She won't fall for the tricks he's pulled on Bakugo and some of his other opponents. She knows how to read. Good, but not good enough to catch his opening stunt.

Izuku starts his next real attack with a stutter. Using his left foot, he steps forward, just a few centimeters. He touches the ground, slipping the sole of his shoe on the concrete. Yaoyorozu shifts, lowering her body as her stomach starts to glow. Izuku takes a full step directly forward, following up with two more, breaking into a full sprint. Yaoyorozu moves with him, rushing to meet in the middle as her hand reaches for her stomach. It's a game of chicken. Who'll jerk to a stop to try and pull a trick and who'll counter before the attack can even land. Izuku almost laughs because he knows. When they're just barely a meter apart, he crouches. Yaoyorozu tries to stop, but it's too little too late. Izuku dives at her feet.

Or does he.

Doing so would be a great way to end up on the bottom of a grapple, a situation Izuku would be okay with normally. He's good at the whole wrestling thing. But Yaoyorozu is bigger and can make sharp objects from any point on her body. So he leaps to the right, weaving under her arm and reaching for her head. He grabs a fistful of her hair, feeling the tie of her ponytail. He grabs it, pulling her down.

There's a grunt of pain, and Izuku kicks her off balance. But something hard clocks him across the jaw, and he feels a hand latch onto his ankle. Izuku lets go of Yaoyorozu's hair, kicking at her wrist with one foot as he tries to hop away. But her other hand grabs the back of his calf, and she pulls his weight out from under him.

Now on the ground, Izuku rolls over to his stomach. He kicks wildly, hitting Yaoyorozu's ribs and face. She manages to hold tight, and he hears the sound of metal on metal. Furiously trying to get away, he pulls one of his legs up to his chest and digs his hands into the ground. He kicks as hard as he can, putting his arms and core into it. He hears another pained grunt, and the grip on his ankle loosens.

Izuku scampers away, standing and regaining his bearings. Yaoyorozu does the same, but Izuku makes a split second choice. By all means, a moment to recover and assess what the hell she hit him with would be good. But he needs to keep the pressure up. He rushes her, hitting her with a jab to the stomach before she can truly stand. Yaoyorozu counters with a punch of her own, but Izuku dances back, avoiding the hook. It's clear that he can't risk going for his old plan. As nice as it would be, waiting for her to make a mistake is just too risky, and he'd need it to happen too many times. So he goes for plan b. A knockout.

Izuku weaves around Yaoyorozu, hitting her as hard as he can where it hurts. The stomach, the breasts, the face, the neck. She does a good job guarding, but Izuku's fast. Much, much faster than her. She takes more hits than she blocks, and she blocks more hits than she dodges. But she barely moves an inch. It's infuriating. No matter how hard he tries to get her to move, she won't. It's like she knows that if she takes one wrong step, he'll make sure she regrets it instantly. But Izuku grits his teeth and keeps going, avoiding her jabs and throwing a right hook to her ribs. Then, something changes.

Yaoyorozu finally gives ground. Izuku gleefully tries to capitalize on it, reaching a hand out to try and grab the back of her neck. But she pivots backwards, reaching an arm behind her back. A metal bo staff slams into Izuku's knee. He crumples to the ground, hissing in pain as he latches on to one of Yaoyorozu's legs. The staff comes back around in an overhead strike. Izuku leans to the side and it glances off his shoulder. She pulls back, gearing up for another attack. But Izuku grabs one of her wrists. It's a weak grip, one made in an instinctive attempt to stop his opponent from beating him over the head with itje staff. Izuku feels his fingers slip, wrapping around the metal. His grip tightens, and he takes it in both hands.

Yaoyorozu tries to fend him off, kicking and tugging on the staff. But Izuku orients himself so his legs push against the ground, and he rips the staff out of her hands with the extra muscle power. Thanking every squat and deadlift he's ever done, Izuku rights himself and takes a stance. The staff feels weird in his hands. He hefts it, adjusting his grip until it feels right. Yaoyorozu watches him, a contemplating look on her face. Izuku knows he doesn't know how to use the staff. She knows it two. But it's human instinct to beat the sh*t out of things with a stick, and he might as well give it a whirl.

Izuku starts with a swipe at about stomach level. Yaoyorozu jumps back and tries to get inside his guard. Izuku back pedals, watching as her upper chest glows. He pulls his arms back, winding up to thrust the staff directly at her throat. Yaoyorozu tilts her body to the side, but part of the staff nicks her in the neck. She coughs, reaching her hand to cover her neck. Naturally, Izuku goes for her newly exposed stomach. But he takes his eyes off her chest to do so, and completely misses the canister she pulls from her skin.

It hits him right on the nose, making it bleed as his eyes tear up. It goes off with a hiss, releasing a cloud of thick black smoke into the air. Izuku kicks the canister away, but the damage is already done. Yaoyorozu had escaped from view, and the hissing of the smoke drowns out any footsteps.

Nervously, Izuku begins to move. He keeps low and tense, coiled like a spring. His grip on the staff is tight, maybe too tight. The smoke stings his eyes. Yaoyorozu definitely has some way of seeing him. She wouldn't try something like this without it. It only makes him even more nervous. He's supposed to be the ambusher. His entire costume and fighting style revolves around it. Being the prey doesn't just feel wrong. It's downright terrifying.

Izuku hears a click from behind. He dives forward, leans left, and jumps to the right. He turns, swiping the staff around, trying to catch Yaoyorozu. But there's nothing to be felt. What are the odds she made some sort of noisemaker? Cursing, Izuku picks up the pace. He moves around, utterly restless, only made more so by the fact that he can't go too far without risking walking out of bounds. Mire clinking comes. Other sounds follow. They all come from one direction. Either she's trying to lure him into a trap or coral him out of bounds. Either way, Izuku decides to stay put. She doesn't want another melee clash. It must suck to be her, because that's the only way Izuku is going to let her have a chance. But of course, Yaoyorozu also has backup plans.

Something thick wraps around his feet. It happens in a flash, faster than he can dodge. Izuku jumps, but the thing manages to get one leg. Forcing himself to stay silent, he follows the force pulling him in. He doesn't fight back. She probably expects him to. Instead, Izuku walks forward, leveling the staff at where he thinks she is. After moving a few meters, he hears rustling. Instead of lashing out, he waits. It probably saves him the match.

Whatever was pulling him in stops, and the sound of shoes on concrete follows. Izuku tugs with his tied foot. Something shakes but doesn't budge. He sees the glow of Yaoyorozu's Quirk from the corner of his eye. He swings above the light, hitting something metallic. Yaoyorozu swears. Or at least something akin to it. Izuku doesn't care, because he knows where her head is now. And he hits it, as hard as he can. There's a thunk, followed by the sound of a body falling to the floor.

"Holy sh*t," Izuku says, and then forces himself to shut up. Playing dead is a legitimate strategy. For all he knows, she's making something nasty with the skin laying against the floor. Izuku pokes her with the staff. She doesn't move. Gingerly, he sets the weapon down and rolls her over, which is difficult because he can hardly move one of his feet. But she still doesn't move. Izuku listens to the breathing. Holy sh*t.

The smoke clears, and the crowd gets an eyeful of him, standing over Yaoyorozu, holding her own staff. Midnight declares him the winner, her words ringing in her words. Holy sh*t.

Medics come by, taking both Yaoyorozu and Izuku to the medical wing. They both get a kiss from Recovery Girl, and Yaoyorozu is woken up with ammonia salts. They both lay in bed for a while staring at each other.

"How's the—"

"Was it a—"

"Sorry!"

"Sorry."

Izuku coughs, looking away. "Good fight."

"Thanks. You as well. Clever of you to wait at the end, I… I was expecting you to over extend and when you didn't I… well." Yaoyorozu reaches up to touch the side of her head, a little sheepish.

"Yeah." Izuku looks down at his hands. "I guess I kinda went overboard with that one."

"Nonsense! It was within the parameters of the tournament! You used the staff brilliantly for a novice, and it was my fault for failing to wear proper head protection."

"Um… alright. Thanks, I think?" Izuku fiddles with his hands, unsure of how to deal with an actual decent human being other than one of his friends. "You did really well, too. I thought you had me with that smokescreen."

"It was a spur of the moment thing, I would've been shocked had it actually worked out." Yaoyorozu looks over at him, clearly curious. "I do have to ask, if you don't mind. What's your Quirk? I didn't notice anything happening to me, does it just affect you?"

"Can I ask you something first?"

"Sure."

"Why didn't you make a net? Or anything like that. You had time in the smokescreen."

"Ah." Yaoyorozu looks away bashfully. "I use my lipids to make nonliving matter. There's only so much I can make, and I was nearing my limit at the start of our fight. I foolishly didn't eat before our match, I was just too nervous."

"But the noise makers?" Izuku asks. "The thing you used to rope me in?"

"Screws and bits of plastic," Yaoyorozu explains. "I launched them with a slingshot. And I used a basic spring mechanism to throw the rope. I had to hand reel it in."

"Oh." Izuku looks her over. "You do seem skinnier than before."

"Yes. But your Quirk—"

"Ah! There you are!" All Might barges into the room, tailed by a gaggle of U.A teachers and stadium staff. "Follow me! We need to show all the fans that You Are Here!"

Izuku and Yaoyorozu are pulled from bed and shoved in a room with Tokoyami, the boy in third place. They're given new uniforms and curtains to change behind, but Izuku keeps his old one on. The others change, and they all walk out together. All Might beams as he leads them back to the stadium entrance, but he stops short of walking out. "Head up to the platforms and take your places. I'll be there shortly with the medals!"

The crowd boos as they make their way across the bottom of the arena, and the students—all reassembled for the medal ceremony—don't exactly give off positive vibes. But Izuku smiles as he climbs up to the first place podium, casually standing with his hands in his pockets.

"And now, presenting the medals for this year's Sports Festival, our most famous alumni and favorite newbie teacher… Al—"

"I am here!"

All Might's presence soothes the crowd somewhat, and Izuku watches as they cheer for Tokoyami and Yaoyorozu. But when All Might steps up to greet first place, they go right back to booing. Izuku shrugs it off and smiles up at his teacher. "How'd I do?"

"Outstanding," All Might says, slinging the medal around his neck. Izuku reaches up to feel the gold. "I know that the people here don't understand you, but there are those that do. You proved everyone wrong today, young man. You proved your worth to people who would never have given you a second glance. That can never be taken away from you. I look forward to seeing you continue to grow."

Izuku fights back tears as All Might gives him a warm hug. When the man pulls away he bows to the crowd, dipping so low his medal hits the floor of his podium. The crowd hates it but he doesn't care. Izuku smiles and blows them kisses, thanking them for their 'support.' Their fury reaches the point where he and the other medalists have to be escorted out of the arena. Right into an interview.

Tactfully, Izuku refuses to answer any questions. But then he sees a familiar face. Or lack thereof. Hagakure's dad, who he's maybe spoken two words to ever, gets to be his only interviewer.

"How do you feel right now?"

"Oh, amazing. It feels so good to see my hard work pay off, and to be loved by all my fans in the crowd."

"And how do you feel about the behavior of the spectators today?"

"Oh, they did nothing wrong as far as they know. I mean, not everyone can think rationally while watching something as heated and intense as the Sports Festival."

"How about your fellow contestants? Do you have any friends you want to lift up with your newfound fame?"

"Not really. Just the hero class as a whole, I guess. It's full of such amazing people who are exactly what society expects them to be."

"I see. One last question."

"Go for it."

"Everyone's been dying to know. What's your Quirk?"

Izuku smirks and looks to his right where Yaoyorozu sits. "Uh, yeah. I don't got one of those."

Notes:

Incoming media sh*tstorm? Incoming media sh*tstorm. I hope you enjoyed.

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Chapter 27

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"I'm surprised you didn't chuck the thing in a fire."

"That would just give the crowd what they wanted." Izuku hits the button beside the elevator and the doors slide open. Tokage steps inside first, followed by Tesutesu and Hagakure. Izuku brings up the rear, hitting the button for his floor. The doors slide shut. "There's a petition to have the medal revoked. Three million signatures. Not that it'll change anything, but if I got rid of it on my own accord, it would be giving them what they want."

"So Bart?"

"Bart," Izuku confirms. "I don't want it in my room. My mom doesn't care for it. It looks nice in the trophy case at the gym, and the guy has supported me for a while."

"I still think you should've had it melted down into brass knuckles or something," Tokage says. "Like, just think about it. How metal that would be, knocking someone's teeth out with solid gold."

"I've already got a pair of those, and gold is heavy. It wouldn't feel right in my hands."

"Interesting that you object because of the weight and not because brass knuckles are kind of cruel," Hagakure muses. "It's pretty telling."

Izuku shrugs. "I wouldn't use them on anyone, but they're on my suit just in case. Like the knife. I'm not going to stab someone just because I have it, but if sh*t goes down? I'd rather live."

"Fair." The elevator stops with a ding, the doors opening to Izuku's floor. The four of them step out, silently heading for the door at the end of the hall. The lock opens with a turn of Izuku's key. He holds the door open for his friends, watching them kick off their shoes and make themselves at home on the couch.

"Izuku, sweetie, did you all remember to shower this time?" his mother asks from the kitchen.

"I did," Tokage replies, taking a dramatic sniff of air. "The other three came out with wet hair but that doesn't really prove anything."

"I'll just use some body spray," Tesutesu says. "That'll cover all the BO up."

"You spray that sh*t in my house and I'll strangle you." Izuku sits down on the couch next to his friends, picking up the remote from the coffee table.

"Language, dear," his mother reprimands.

"Sorry. You spray that sh*t in our house and I'll strangle you."

"You'd think mama Midoriya would be used to dirty talk after hanging with Miruko," Tokage whispers with a smirk.

"What was that, sweetie?"

"Nothing, ma'am. Just telling your son to mind his manners."

"Good. He needs it." Izuku's mom steps into the living room, drying her hands with a towel. "How are you all enjoying your time off? I know Izuku's happy to be out of school for a while."

"Video games and weights," Tesutesu says. "Mostly weights. I can get two workouts in without school getting in the way."

"And yet you still can't run a sub six minute mile," Tokage observers.

"The mile is a obsolete and stupid unit of measurement and how fast I run one has no bearing on my fitness." Tesutesu crosses his arms, finished with the conversation.

"That doesn't make up for your slow ass."

"Spoken like someone who can do it in under five," Hagakure says, making Izuku smirk and shoot her the finger guns.

"You know it. He's just jealous."

"Loserswhocan'tsquatonefiftysaywhat," Tesutesu mutters.

"What?"

"Gotcha. You wish you had legs like mine."

"And you wish you could run as fast as me. What the hell did you even say?"

"That you're weak."

"I'll show you we—"

"Boys, you're both weak. Admit it so we can finally relax. My back's sore as hell and your screaming is making it worse."

"Aw, want a kiss to make it better?"

"Hagakure, if you kiss me, I will fold you in half and shove you down a laundry shoot."

"Am I that ugly?"

"Yes."

"Why don't you all settle down?" Izuku watches as his mom rests the towel on her shoulder, looking at them with fond eyes. "Watch TV or something. I'll make lunch."

"That's not—"

"The rice is already washed."

Tesutesu wilts. "Alright."

Izuku smirks as his mom disappears into the kitchen. "You're never going to change her mind. Many have tried, all of them failed. You're no different."

"It just feels awkward." Hagakure shifts back in her seat, bringing her legs up and crossing them under her on the couch. "I never used to go over to friend's houses. Eating their food seems like stealing."

"Yeah, I get you," Izuku admits. "I also had no friends in middle school."

"Same." Tokage holds out a fist. Tesutesu reaches across Izuku's chest to bump it.

"Did you all eat alone at lunch, too?"

"Until I met this idiot."

"She means she begged to be my friend," Izuku corrects, playfully elbowing Tokage in the ribs. "Came up to me after I knocked a girl out and wouldn't take no for an answer."

"Jeez," Hagakure exclaims. "At least you're constant with beating up girls."

"The bitch was asking for it," Tokage says. "Midoriya knocked her out for bullying some first year. It was totally badass, he even got a cringey nickname out of it."

"Don't say it."

"One Punch Boy!"

"I'm actually going to kill you," Izuku says as Tesutesu bursts into laughter. Off to the left, Hagakure giggles.

"N-no way is that true. Who the hel—" another round of giggles forces Hagakure to double over. She clutches her sides, snorting as she tries to calm down.

"M-midoriya, did you sign any autographs?" Tesutesu snickers. "I think we just found your hero name."

"Funny. Very funny. I'm dying of laughter over here." Izuku sits back and watches his friends laugh, faking his irritation. "Let's forget about middle school and watch a mo—"

There's a buzz. Tokage perks up and pulls her phone out of her shorts. The screen turns on and she groans before tossing it on the coffee table. "f*cking Twitter. I thought I deleted it."

"You don't know? The phone manufacturers have a deal with the company to forcibly reinstall it."

"That sounds like something Hagakure's dad would write about," Izuku jokes. "He's a conspiracy nut, right?"

"My father occasionally puts on a tinfoil hat, but he's not that stupid." Hagakure crosses her arms. "His company is respectable, too. They even covered the Sports."

"Don't I know it," Izuku says, smiling at the memory of an entire room erupting in shock. "Man, that was…" he trails off, finding that his friends are awkwardly stoic. "What?"

"Well, I mean," Tesutesu starts, vaguely gesturing in front of him. "You've seen all the articles."

"What articles?"

"There's, like, a million about you. Everywhere." Hagakure leans forward, to look at him more clearly. "My dad's is just one of many. You can't go two feet on the internet without seeing your face as the thumbnail of some news page."

"Really?"

"Yeah, really." Tokage shakes her head in disbelief. "You're Quirkless. You won the Sports Festival. You shared both of those facts with the world on live TV. Of course you're blowing up on every single social media platform. Have you seen the news?"

"News?"

"Oh. My. God." Tesutesu facepalms. "You… we've been walking on eggshells for three days thinking you wanted to ignore all the nasty sh*t they've been saying about you literally everywhere. And this whole time you've been living like a hermit?"

"Hermit is over exaggerating, I've been living like it's nineteen ninety seven." Izuku looks over at Tokage's phone. "Anyways, what are they saying about me?"

Nothing good, he finds. #MidoriyaIzuku has been trending for days and shows no signs of stopping. #UASportsFestival is a sh*t show of hot takes and petty insults. Some question whether or not he's actually Quirkless. Most use it as extra ammunition to mock him with. They all really hate how he fought against, well, every single girl he encountered. They call him wild and claim he doesn't belong at U.A. Nothing he didn't expect, really.

"Yeah, that's not too bad."

"Midoriya. I don't think you understand. There are at least a million tweets about you. A million. And that's just Twitter. You didn't notice?"

Izuku shrugs. "I got a dirty look from the cashier at the corner store when I went in to buy a drink. And that website with the petition didn't have comments enabled."

"I just… are you okay with this?"

"No," Izuku answers immediately. "But that's not going to change anything. They'll still hate me. They'll still work themselves into a frenzy over my actions. How I feel about it only affects me. So I'm going to mostly ignore it and keep working. I don't really care about being liked, just as long as they see how strong I am. Pass me the remote, would you?"

The TV clicks on, filing the room with noise. The jingle for a news station plays, and a red line moves across the bottom of the screen. But Izuku can't focus on the text. The reporter gets his attention instead. "We now return to the hotly debated UA Sports Festival that took place just a few days ago. Viewers of the event were left shocked, not by the tenacity and skill of the first years of the school, but at the viciousness of a particular first year.

"Midoriya Izuku made quite the name for himself, even before lunch time. First hand accounts claim that almost everyone hated him—and for good reason."

"The boy showed no mercy to his opponents, both physically and verbally," a second reporter continues. "He drove another boy to tears over a seemingly petty argument, knocked several young women unconscious, and displayed utter contempt for the dignity and safety of his opponents in each and every match. And to top it all off…"

The screen changes to show Izuku, looking away from the camera but obviously smirking. "What's your Quirk?"

"Um, yeah. I don't got one of those."

"He's Quirkless! Now, there was some controversy. Critics and experts thought it to be impossible for a powerless competitor to win or even place. But UA staff have come forward to confirm. Most notable of which is All Might."

The screen changes again to show All Might and a few other teachers sitting at a long, white table. Cameras flash and microphones wave in the air. "Settle down, now!" the principal orders. "All of your questions will be answered in due time. Let's start at the front. You!"

"Yes! Is it true that Midoriya Izuku is Quirkless?"

"Indeed," Nedzu confirms. "His medical history shows a clear diagnosis, and he has the biology of a Quirkless human."

"Is there a chance he could be lying?"

"I don't think so. He's shown no signs of a Quirk of any kind. Next question. You, in the hat."

"Principal Nedzu, sir, many have called UA into question over Mr Midoriya's reveal. Are you being biased towards him? Frankly, I think that we all find it hard to believe a boy made it into your school without a Quirk."

"He did, in fact. It was quite impressive." Nedzu swirls his mug of tea around with a twinkle in his eye. "There was no cheating. He did it all legally and in the parameters of the test. So we enrolled him. I assure you, at this point in time, there is and hasn't been any bias from our staff. He's been treated as every other UA student."

"What a crock of sh*t," Tokage mutters.

"Shut up," Izuku hisses back. "I wanna hear this."

Tokage rolls her eyes but holds her silence as the interview continues. "Nedzu, sir, is it really wise to keep a Quirkless student in the class? It seems like a waste of a spot, especially considering that there are so many better candidates in other courses, shown by the Festival."

Nedzu shrugs. "Should we find a reason to expel him, we will. Should he prove unfit for heroics, we'll transfer him out. For now he'll stay where he is. It's only fair, and there's already two open spots."

"Yes, but he's not as valuable the students of the general course, and he's displayers villai—"

"Now, now," All Might cuts in, holding up a hand. "Let's not be too rude here. I've talked to the young man a handful of times. He's got a good, moral head on his shoulders. A lot of grit and drive as well. He's smart, too. It all manifests in a strong understanding of his situation. He knows he has to make up for his lack of a Quirk. Midoriya isn't foolish enough to expect to be given handouts, but he wants to perform just as well as his peers. So he fights harder. Smarter, too. He's proved his worth already by beating several of his classmates in school. I've seen it myself. He has what it takes, it's just a matter of staying on track and putting in the time."

The screen shifts back to the newsroom as the reporters in the press conference erupt into a flurry of shouts. "All Might may be supportive of the young medalist, but other heroes aren't. Over the past few days, we've collected a number of clips, each one featuring a different pro hero sharing their opinion. They range from basic street level peacekeepers to those in the top ten. Let's have a look."

The first hero up is one Izuku's never heard of. It's the same for the second and third. The fourth, however, catches his interest. "Hawks! Hawks!" a reporter screams, frantically waving their mic. "Down here! I just have one quick question!"

There's a blur of red and brown, and the reporter nearly runs right into Hawks as he makes his landing. "Well, if it's quick I guess I can answer. Shoot."

"The UA Sports Festival had a Quirkless winner this year. How do you feel about his placement in the hero course and actions turning the tournament?"

Hawks shrugs. "I don't care. I guess it's weird and backwards for a Quirkless kid to be in UA. I feel like heroics should be left to those suited for it, you know? No power, no chance against a lot of villains. But UA's not my school. I won't ever see the kid. So he can do whatever. They answer your question?"

"Yes. Thank you!"

"Cool. Peace!"

Hawks dashes off and the screen changes. Izuku cracks a smile as Mount Lady comes on screen, a few choice memories resurfacing. "Are you recording?"

"Yes."

"Alright. Go ahead and ask," Mount Lady says, trying her best to look uninterested as she fluffs her hair.

"Right." The reporter on screen clears their throat. "What do you think of UA Sports Festival winner Midoriya Izuku?"

"Oh, he's awful. Like, I was there in the stands watching him, and I didn't like him from the start. He's just so mean. He pulled hair, he choked people out, he screamed at that one kid. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see someone in a school for heroes to act that way, you know?"

"Yes. And what about his Quirkless status?"

"He's Quirkless?"

"Yes."

"Then it's even worse. He shouldn't be training to be a hero at all. How does that even work? You can't be a hero without a Quirk. It's literally in the definition. I don't think he'd be useful in the field if he graduates."

"I see. Thank you for your time."

The screen switches back to the newsroom, but the words of the reporters fall on deaf ears. Izuku breathes evenly. He's used to it, but it's another thing to hear it from people he looked up to. And Mount Lady.

An elbow to his ribs shakes him out of his thoughts. "—one more clip featuring a rather… unique take on the Festival. Roll the footage."

Miruko comes on screen, white and brown and purple with a co*cky grin. A microphone is shoved at her face, but she pushes it away with crass roughness.

"You wanna know what I think about the punk who won?"

"Y-yes ma'am."

Miruko nods, seemingly mulling it over. "I like him. He's got balls and he's not an idiot. It's hard to find that combination, y'know."

"I-it's hardly surprising that you like his personality," the reporter stutters. "But what about his lack of a Quirk? How do you feel about him being enrolled in the top heroics program in the country?"

"I think he belongs there. You saw him fight, you know how good he is. And the work he must've put forth can't have been small. Hell, I'd say he put in more effort than almost everyone else in that tournament. He's got what it takes, not that I'd ever lend him a hand to get him there."

"But he's Qu—"

"You think you could do better than him?"

"Yes."

"Really? Would you be willing to fight him?"

"No!"

"Then there you go. Anyone who's called that kid worthless and weak can take all of their grievances and shove 'em up their—"

The station makes a hard cut back to the newsroom, and Izuku laughs. A weight is lifted off his chest. His friends join him, huddling in close, giving Izuku that extra bit of warmth. He hears his mom walk out of the kitchen, closely followed by the smell of fresh food. He couldn't be happier.

Then there's a knock at the door. "Delivery for Midoriya?" a voice says, muffled and unsure. Izuku narrows his eyes.

"I didn't order anything."

"Me neither," his mom says, walking over the door. "I wonder—" she turns the knob and is knocked back by a mountain of letters and boxes. Izuku feels his eyes bulge as an exhausted looking mailman stumbles into their apartment. He holds out a clipboard, almost robotically. He looks completely dead inside.

"Please," he practically begs, "sign on the dotted line…"

Notes:

Sorry for the wait. Life got in the way. Hope you enjoyed.

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Chapter 28

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Did… did you get f*cking doxed?"

"Language, dear."

"I… sorry." Izuku would normally snicker at Tokage being chided by his mother, but the mountain of letters is quite distracting. He gets up off the couch and picks one off the floor. It feels cheap, and the mailing info is written in heavy, blocky scrawl. There's no return address. Or even a destination address.

"What the hell?"

"Sign, please," the mailman says again, shoving his clipboard in Izuku's face. "Please. I'll answer your questions just… I have a family."

"Alright, alright." Izuku tosses the letter to Hagakure and takes the clipboard. He gives the print a cursory glance before scribbling his signature. "It's just a delivery. Here."

The mailman takes the clipboard and pen back, double checking to make sure Izuku actually signed. "Thank you, sir. The Japanese postal service would like to extend you an apology for the delay, as some of those letters with express shipping were ment to arrive yesterday. We thought it best to deliver in bulk and search for anthrax."

"Anthrax?" his mother all but screeches. "They're trying to kill him?!"

"Any and all toxins, diseases, explosives, and tracking devices have been removed," the mailman asures. "Not that there were many. But all the mail is safe to open. Unless you're worried about psychological damage."

"Neat." Izuku picks up another letter and taps the address with his finger. "Why does it just have my name on it?"

"Fanmail has to be kept separate from agency mail."

"No duh, that's what office addresses are for. I want to know why I got these even though they just have my name. I'm a civilian, not a hero."

"I don't think you understand. The amount of fanmail in circulation is staggering." The mailman's eyes go a little glassy. "Tons of it are delivered every day. To the point where it gets mixed up with actual, important mail. It's the same for other celebrities. You just put the name on so we know it's fanmail."

"That's so dumb," Tokage mutters.

"But it works."

"Wait," Izuku says, attention snapping back to the mailman, "you're saying all the letters I wrote to All Might that I shoved in the mailbox downstairs actually went through?"

"If they had stamps and postage on them, then yes."

"Oh thank god."

"You're missing the point here," Hagakure says. "You have a lot of letters, and most of them… well."

"They're all going to be hate-mail," Tesutesu finishes.

"Probably." Izuku digs his nail into the paper of the envelope. He pulls across the seam, parting the paper and pulling the letter out. He unfolds the sheet and clears his throat. "You are a massive cu—"

"Skip to the end," his mother urges. "Or don't read it at all."

"You should kill y—"

"That's the end of that." Hagakure snaps the letter from his hands and crumbles it into a ball. "It's not good for your mental health."

"Fine." Izuku picks up another letter. "Ooh, this one feels heavy. You think there's—"

"Anthrax is not inside," the mailman interrupts. "They were all searched, remember."

"You seem very insistent on the anthrax thing," Tesutesu observes. "And Midoriya didn't even say what was on his mind before he interrupted. Why promise us safety from anthrax specifically?"

"I just wanna go home, man."

"And you can!" Hagakure shoves Tesutesu away and shoos the mailman towards the door. "He's just being an idiot. We all are. Leave. We'll sort it all out."

The door slams shut before Izuku can even blink. A gust stirs up the mountain of letters, sending a few right past Izuku's face. He grabs one and rips it open. The letter inside is written entirely with clippings from magazines and newspapers. He scans it over, absently taking in the petty insults and anger. How much effort did it take to do this? Do people really get that mad about Quirkless people? Or is it just because he was an asshole on live TV? It doesn't really affect him at all. Until he gets to the bottom.

Useless, limbless doll. You don't deserve anything. Slip and fall off a roof.

The final sentence swims in his vision for a moment and he starts to feel unsteady. He drops the letter, the sound of the paper hitting the wood if the floor a dull crinkle in his ears. The window in the kitchen draws his attention. He never gives it a second glance usually, but it grabs him. The grey of the street below feels harsh and cold. Yet welcoming in a way.

"Izuku?"

He blinks and forces himself to pick up another envelope. "Let's get this over with."

"I feel like this entire scenario is stupid," Tokage says a while later, tossing a letter into the hate-mail pile. "Like, why even bother with delivering these? They should've just burned them."

"Yeah, but there's the off chance that some of them could be nice or important." Hagakure rips a letter in half, clearly disgusted with its contents. "The very off chance. But it's still there!"

"Yeah, but they only do the name in place of am adress thing for heroes and celebrities," Tesutesu points out. "Midoriya isn't either yet."

"He may as well be, though," Hagakure argues. "First place in the sports festival? The amount of… strong feelings he stirred up? It's not at all surprising."

"I feel like this is some form of karma," Izuku muses, opening one up. "I win the festival, achieving a dream of mine and proving people wrong, but I become hated in the public eye."

"That's not karma. It's an equivalent exchange."

"The f*ck are you talking about?" Tokage looks at Tesutesu funny. "Equivalent exchange is a science thing."

"No it's not," Hagakure corrects, sounding appalled. "It… it's from an old manga. My dad has a few volumes of it. What happened to you, Midoriya, was the monkey's paw. You wanted your skill and hard work to be recognized by as many people as possible and you did. It's just that they hate you for it."

"Being well liked is overrated anyway."

"Are you just saying that?"

"Yes? I don't know. I don't want to be hated but the people that do hate me are idiots." Izuku shrugs. "As long as people are seeing the work I put in, I don't care. It'll just be some time until I get actual respect, which I've known. I'm a first year in High School. I don't expect them to think I'm amazing, I just want to be treated equally and respected as a hero hopeful. But I'm not."

"Definitely not, yeesh." Tesutesu rips a letter in half, and then half again. Then half again. He keeps going until it's nothing but a bunch of shavings. "Some people."

"Oh, I know." Tokage points to a letter she set aside. "That's the only positive one I found and it's some creepy person asking for a lock of your hair."

"Gross."

"Still not as bad as the stuff about you in the Hero RPF tags."

"Excuse you?" Izuku asks, watching Tokage freeze like a deer in headlights.

"I, uh, um, f*ck."

"Tokage Setsuna, do you read fanfiction?"

"No!"

"You so do!" Izuku laughs, moving over to poke her in the arm. "Hero RPF, huh? Ooh, I bet you read all sorts of trashy—"

"It's tasteful," Tokage defends. "My taste is amazing, thank you very much. And yeah, I do. Because books are expensive and getting invested in new characters is a pain."

"Didn't stop you from clicking on fics about Midoriya now, did it?" Tesutesu teases.

"You would've done the same thing, don't lie to me."

"Yeah, but I didn't. You did. Therefore you're worse."

"I think we're glossing over the fact that Midoriya has fanfiction written about him," Hagakure says. "Like. It's been three days."

"Oh, you poor child." Izuku shakes his head, torn between being nostalgic and repressing the memories all together. "The Hero RPF fandom works fast. Stupidly fast. I remember when Miruko made her debut. There were fics the next morning."

"Midoriya Izuku, do you read fanfiction?"

"Not anymore, I outgrew it years ago." Izuku smiles and then shivers. "I'm glad I did, too. Some of that stuff… and it was about real people."

"That's what RPF means, yes."

"Shut up, you read fanfiction about one of your friends."

"Out of curiosity! To see how bad it was!"

"Oh, I bet."

"Why you s—"

"Okay, but even if the fandom works fast," Hagakure butts in, verbally and physically putting herself between Tesutesu and Tokage, "you're not even a hero yet. So why all the attention?"

"Sports Festival competitors get fans sometimes." Izuku shrugs. "A lot of the time they're obviously going to be big. I don't know why I'd have any works dedicated to me, though."

"Oh, that's easy. Who writes fanfiction? Angsty, edgy teens. You speak to that demographic. Like, an uncomfortable amount."

"Gee, thanks."

"Yeah, there's a ton of angst sh*t. Out of the twenty—"

"Twenty!?"

"Yes, now shut up. Out of the twenty, fifteen are about you breaking down after getting the medal, four are about being mistreated by UA, and one."

"Go on," Izuku urges, morbidly curious.

"Romance."

"With who?"

"... That Uraraka girl from 1-B."

"f*ck off."

"I'm serious."

"No. There is no way in hell. You're bullhsh*tting me."

"Nope. Six thousand words, a handful of tags, way too many hits…"

"Pull it up."

"… the day I show you my account is the day hell freezes over."

"Alright." Izuku pulls his phone out of his pocket, unlocking it and pulling up a search engine. "Which site?"

"Which one has ten million entries on the enemies to lovers tag?"

"Good lord, it's that many now?" Izuku types in a familiar website and navigates to the fandom in question. He has the unfortunate duty of typing in his own name in the search bar. A page of works comes up. Like Tokage said, there's twenty of them. He scrolls all the way to the bottom. Then he nearly chucks his phone at the wall. "Why is it rated explicit!?"

"Cause people are weird. If you're wondering, there's no actual…" Tokage pauses, letting Izuku fill in the blank, "yet. It's ongoing."

"And you read the whole thing knowing it could've?"

"I never half ass the job."

"Fu—"

"Here." A package is tossed at Izuku's face. He catches it and tosses his phone to the side. "Open that, we'll deal with your toxic fanbase later," Hagakure says. "Do you need a knife?"

"I need eyebleach," Izuku grumbles, glancing over the package. "Eyebleach, and a delete button for the internet. I'm fifteen, what the hell? It's not right, I—Norway?"

"What?"

"Norway," Izuku repeats, tapping the return address of the package. It's written in sloppy Japanese, right below the English-like lettering Izuku can only assume to be Norwegian.

"That's weird," Tesutesu says, moving over to look at it. "Could it be a pipe bomb?"

"Yeah, a pipe bomb made it through international shipping," Tokage says sarcastically. "We're all about to die because a bunch of Norwegians got pissy about a Japanese fighting tournament."

"Alright, I get it. It's just so weird, you know?"

"There's more, too," Hagakure says, sliding over another, bigger box. "That one's from Germany. And this one's from Canada!"

"What the hell?"

"Open it," Tesutesu urges. "Maybe it's something good?"

"I doubt it."

"Who on earth would pay international shipping for hate-mail?" Tokage asks. "No one wants to waste good money on that sort of stuff."

"It wouldn't surprise me that much," Izuku says, digging his nails into the packing tape. "People are weird and dumb. Anyway." He rips the box open, sending a few packing peanuts bouncing across the floor. A folded sheet of paper rests on top, and he takes it.

"Dear Izuku," he reads, squinting at the shoddy characters, "am apologetic about awful words. Japanese is new to me. The language you speak is backwards from the one I speak. I still hope you understand this letter. If you don't, I hope you will understand my gifts. I saw you on TV a few days ago. I thought you were awesome, even in the first round. I wasn't didn't plan on doing anything. Then I saw your interview. I am also powerless. Almost my whole Norway is. I am remorseful that your country hates you in such a way. You are not weak. You are not useless. You are amazing. Me and my friends love you. Norway loves you as well. Take these gifts. Have a nice day. From Bjorn."

Tesutesu gently takes the letter from Izuku's hands, looking it over. Izuku digs through the box, finding a package of forgien sweets and another box. He opens the box and pulls out a piece of cloth. Red, white, and blue with a cross design. It's a scarf, styled like a Norwegian flag. Izuku takes it in his hands, feeling the weight of the fabric. It feels a little cheep, but that makes it all the better. He wraps it around his neck. The cloth is warm and itch against his skin. His eyes drift over to the kitchen window.

The day looks welcoming.

Notes:

The time between chapters is gonna go up from now on. Just a heads up for you all. I'm juggling two fics at the moment, along with a job, school, an extra curricular, and practicing to make it into a prestigious youth band in my area. Not to mention that I spend time with family quite often. If sucks because I like writting this and I enjoy entertaining people. But such is life. If I had to guess, updates will pick back up going into winter. I'm less busy then and I won't be pulling 5+ shifts a week. See you in the next one.

Discord? Discord.
https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Chapter 29

Chapter Text

"I think you went a little too far."

"I have no idea what you're about."

"It's just." Hagakure reaches up and pulls Izuku's hat off to reveal another hat. The one in her hand is a baseball cap from America, the one on his head is a beanie that sports the dragon of the Welsh flag. "You didn't have to wear all of it."

"But I'm not." Izuku grabs his scarf defensively, giving Hagakure a playful side eye. "It's just one thing from every country."

The halls of UA echo with each step they take. For the first day back, campus is nearly dead. If the way Izuku had to groggily drag himself into the shower earlier in the morning means anything, then UA's student body got stuck in vacation mode. An impressive feat considering the break was only a week.

"The pins on your backpack say otherwise." Tokage flicks his shoulder to punctuate her words, rattling the Mexican eagle pin. "And the stickers on your face?"

Tesutesu snickers, covering his mouth and muffling his voice. "When you peel 'em off, do you think it'll count as a Brazilian wax?"

"I'm going to kill you," Izuku says, touching the side of his cheek where a little Brazilian flack rests. "I'll get you pumped up one day during lifting, have you put too much weight on, and then forget to bail you out."

"What's sad is that it would actually work."

"At least you're self aware?" Hagakure offers. "It could be worse. But, Midoriya… you need to change."

Izuku tucks his chin into the folds of his scarf, hiding his mouth. "Make me."

"Oh, I'll make you alright."

"Wha—"

The scarf unfurls from his neck. Izuku snatches it back, fending off a few prodding hands directed at the pins on his jacket. "Oh no you don't!" Izuku spins, backing up into Tokage. He hears her feet shuffle and ducks the playful swipe of his hair. "These are my emotional support souvenirs. Get your own."

"I am, just from you." Izuku avoids another halfhearted swipe at his jacket before cautiously moving back towards his friends. Tokage plays innocent for a moment before jerking towards him. Izuku tenses and lowers his center of gravity. "You're so ready to fight for that sh*t."

"You doubted that?"

"I don't think anyone did," Hagakure says, "but. In the school hallway?"

"Wouldn't be the first time," Izuku says before thinking for a moment. "Or the second, actually."

"School delinquent right here," Tokage says proudly. She drapes her arm across his shoulders and pokes the tie he got from a kid in Guam. "Beating up girls since middle school."

"Yep."

"You could at least have the decency to deny it."

"I didn't start a single fight." It's impossible to see her face, but Izuku knows Hagakure has one eyebrow raised. "I didn't. Well, I never swung first."

"There it is."

"Watch it," Izuku warns, completely joking as he elbows Tesutesu in the ribs. "I baited a few bullies, I guess. But never just because I wanted to fight. I did it so they wouldn't treat their victims like sh*t when I was around."

"Interesting."

"Not really. I'm sure plenty—hold on." Izuku looks at his friends, who are all equally lost as he is. "That wasn't any of your guys' voices…"

"Nah. I'm up here!" Izuku snaps his head up to look at the ceiling. Three meters up, a face sticks out of the tile. It's smiling, though the way the thing sticks out makes it creepy. No forehead, eyes barely exposed, and a nose that's way too big in comparison.

"What the hell."

"Ah, my bad. I can't see you!" The face slowly pokes even more out of the ceiling. The overall look is less strange, but watching a pair of blue eyes seep out of what's probably solid concrete covered with linoleum makes Izuku's skin crawl. "There. Isn't that better?"

Izuku blinks. "Am I f*cking high right now?"

"I think we all are."

"Nah, you're all fine!" The head shakes back and forth as though to demonstrate its point. "I'm here for real, not just in your head."

"That doesn't help."

"Ah. Well." The face stays stock still, but Izuku gets the impression that the thing is shrugging. Or trying to shrug. "Anyways, get to class! And have a great day! See ya!"

"This is a fever dream," Tesutesu says. "Like, I'm either tripping balls or having the wackiest dream ever. Ah!" he screeches, rubbing his arm and glaring at Tokage. "What the hell?"

"Had to make sure you weren't dreaming." Tokage smirks, holding her hand up and touching her index finger and thumb together. "How about you?" She reaches for Hagakure, but the smaller girl expertly evades.

"You're not dreaming or drugged." Hagakure flicks Tokage in the forehead, utterly exasperated. "It's probably just some upperclassmen messing with us with their Quirk."

"Boring."

"Yeah, I prefer the other theories."

"Honestly, I'd rather be dreaming."

Hagakure huffs. "Let's just get to class."

They're the first ones there, semi surprisingly. Usually Iida beats them, and occasionally Ibara can be seen slipping in the door to 1-A right as they round the corner. But the classroom is dead empty. They don't think anything of it, sitting down to relax before class starts. Gradually, the students trickle in. First Ibara and Jiro, and then a few others. The last is Koda, who makes eye contact with Izuku before sitting down. It's all normal. Except something's missing.

"You all better be sitting down," Aizawa grumbles, trudging through the door. "If I have to look around to take attendance today, it's not going to be—"

"Sir! I am here!" Iida bursts through the door, freezing just in front of the board. Aizawa looks at him for a moment, bewildered.

"Excuse you?"

"I apologize for my tardiness!"

"The bell hasn't even rung yet."

"Even still." Iida sharply bows, keeping his eyes trained on the floor. He holds the pose for a few moments before straightening. His eyes briefly flicker over to Aizawa before angling downward. "A UA student should always be at least five minutes early."

"Yeah, sure. Just sit down before I really count you tardy." Aizawa manages to sound equally sarcastic and serious, spurring Iida to sprint to his seat and sit down before the bell rings. Izuku, however, stays parked on top of Tokage's desk. He endures the poured glare and shrugs off the fact that he's probably being counted as tardy or absent. Once Aizawa finishes taking attendance, he stands in front of the board. "I was disappointed with your performance in the Sports Festival."

"What a shocker."

"You all could have performed better," Aizawa continues, glaring at Tokage, "much, much better. And the overall presentation was unprofessional and, frankly, made you all look foolish. Todoroki, you're the most egregious example." The boy doesn't so much as flinch as Aizawa glares at him.

"You, very obviously, have two aspects to your Quirk. Fire and Ice. Half hot Half cold. And yet you took a draw against Bakugo, ignoring your other half. You should be ashamed to have done such a thing."

Todoroki stiffens. "That's my own—"

"I don't care," Aizawa interrupts. "You're a UA student. That means you're expected to give your all, no matter what. And even before that, you're training to be a hero. It's frankly selfish to neglect half your power. People will die because of it. Not could, because it's not an uncertainty. One day, your ice won't be enough and people will die. Will it be worth it?"

Todoroki glares, clenching his fists. He lowers his gaze, staring at his desk like he's trying to burn a hole in it.

"Answer me."

"No, sir."

Aizawa studies Todoroki for a moment before moving on. "Tokoyami, if you hesitate in a real battle, especially one in full sun, you will lose. Your Quirk is versatile and you're not an idiot. Act like it."

"Thank you, sir."

"Midoriya." Izuku opens his arms wide, slipping a co*cky expression on to annoy his teacher. "Try not to coast on your luck."

"You really put the 'constructive' in constructive criticism." Aizawa doesn't blink as he moves on.

"As far as I'm concerned, the rest of you weren't remarkable." The man slips a hand into his pocket and pulls out a remote. "You'll see that in the stats, but by all means, most of you failed to make an impact, the very purpose of the festival. You didn't fight hard enough, weren't smart with your powers, or didn't apply what you've been taught. Keep in mind that you're still on the chopping block going into your post festival internships. Here are your offers."

Aizawa clicks a button on the remote and the board lights up. At the top are Todoroki and Tokoyami, followed by Ibara, Tokage, and Hagakure. Izuku scans the list, finding his name at the bottom with a whopping one offer. "I mean, it's something?"

Izuku shrugs. "I didn't expect anything. One I can work with. I just hope I can learn something."

"You'll need a lot more than hope." Aizawa brings the attention back to him, but he keeps his eyes trained directly on Izuku. "This goes for all of you. You'll come back from the internships after a week. It'll be a week of review, but also new things. Things we can't teach in a classroom setting. If you don't come back with something new up your sleeve, or if you haven't improved whatsoever, consider yourself expelled."

"Harsh," Toakge whispers. "Nothing new though."

"I'll manage to pick something up over the week, even if it's some old gasbag," Izuku says. "If not I'll talk to—"

"Talk after class," Aizawa says. Izuku and Tokage shut up. "Thank you. Now, since you'll technically be going into the field as heroes, you'll need—"

"Code names!" Midnight cheers, appearing through the door. "My specialty!"

"I'm not qualified to review hero names," Aizawa says, slipping into his sleeping bag. "Midnight is. Behave or you're expelled."

Midnight rolls his eyes. "Sourpuss. You're all fine. This is supposed to be fun! You're going out into the real world! Here, everyone get a board."

Izuku twirls his marker in his hands, unsure of what exactly he's supposed to be doing. "A hero's name should be snappy!" Midnight suggests, perching on Aizawa's desk as students start to come up with ideas. "Under five syllables. Two is preferable. Midnight. Present Mic. Edgeshot. All Might. It sticks in your head, no? Short and sweet, but also full of personality. You want people to know your desk before they even meet you. If you need help, just ask."

Izuku sighs and uncaps his marker. He recaps it, tapping the top of it to the board. Memories from when he was little run through his head. He's thought about hero names before, back before he met Miruko. Being Quirkless didn't stop him from wanting to be like All Might in every way possible. But now every single idea is shot. Might Boy and all the other derivatives won't work. Any sensationalist or bold names don't quite jive, either. Or maybe they do, but they come off as something grand. Perseverance is way too flowery and self indulgent. Not to mention all the other ideas like it. Anything working a word for green in is too simple.

Izuku sneaks a peek at Tokage's board. She's got something, and it's probably really well thought out judging by her careful writing. Tesutesu also has something down, as well as everyone else around him. Their writing matches their personalities, too. Or maybe just their hero names. Izuku, it seems, is the only one having trouble working his personality and 'deal' into a name. But what is his deal? He beats the sh*t out of people with tools and tricks. Personality wise, he has an entire country screaming at him to quit. Not the best show of how he'd be treated if he let those parts of him shine.

So he has nothing.

Frowning, Izuku scribbles his family name down. It'll work as a buffer, at least. It's got green in it. The link is weak, but it's there. Capping his maker, Izuku looks up to find that he's the last to finish. "Ready?" Midnight asks. He nods. "Perfect. Any volunteers?"

The names are all at least decent. Tokage's Lizardy and Tesutesu's Real Steel are solid. Hagakure's could do with some more work. Invisible Girl is too long and bland, in his opinion, but she's happy with it. Iida, apparently like Izuku, couldn't think of one, and went with his given name. Todoroki did the same, barely showing his board to the class before sitting back down to brood. Izuku goes last. Setting his board on the front podium, he looks directly at the back wall.

"Just Midoriya."

"'Just Midoriya'?" Midnight chuckles a little. "Alright. I think you're a lot more than 'just Midoriya' but we'll have to see. These are all working names, everyone. Technically, they could be permanent, but they're not actually. You can change them whenever! Experiment, think about what you are and what you want people to think of when they hear about you. Now, let's go over a few notable historical hero names and…"

Izuku nearly falls asleep during Midnight's improvised lecture. She takes up the rest of homeroom before leaving. Izuku tosses out the board with his name on it and tries not to think about the fact that he can't figure out how to put what he wants into words.

"Hey. Look that sh*t over," Tokage says, poking Izuku in the ribs as they walk to lunch.

"What sh*t?"

"You got an email with your offer in it."

"I did?"

"We all did," Hagakure says. "You didn't check?"

"I was too busy having an existential crisis."

"Just… check your email," Tesutesu says. "I'm sure your offer's great!"

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here," Izuku says, pulling out his phone. "It's probably some random d-lister who—holy f*cking sh*t."

"What?" Tokage almost snatches his phone away, but Izuku grips the thing tight. "Who is it?" she presses.

Izuku blinks and proceeds to refresh his inbox over and over again, expecting another one to pop up explaining that it was all a mistake. "This is for real."

"What?"

Izuku tosses his phone to Tesutesu. "Sir Nighteye wants to mentor me."

Chapter 30

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"I'm going to f*ck up."

"Nah."

"Yes. I'm going to make an ass of myself in front of the only hero to give me a shot. It's going to be awful."

"You'll be fine. You're good at what you do and Nighteye asked for you specifically. He liked what he saw."

"You don't know that. He could be batsh*t insane and a sad*st who just wants to f*ck with me. He probably isn't but he will be once I start running my mouth like an idiot."

"Again, you'll be alright. Nothing's gonna go wrong with Nighteye. You've got this. Just get over it."

Izuku drops his suitcase and smacks his forehead. He turns to Hagakure and takes his voice up an octave. "Jee, why didn't I think of that?"

"You make it hard to feel for you sometimes," Tesutesu says. "Like, I'm your man and all, but that level of sarcasm…"

"Quit being a drama queen so we can feel sympathy."

"Thanks, Tokage. I really appreciate it."

"There it is again."

"I'm not being that sarcastic. Or dramatic." Tokage raises a single eyebrow. "I'm interning with Sir Nighteye, this is an adequate amount of drama!"

"Sure, then you'll remember that he's got a stick up his ass. Seriously, the guy wears a suit. In the field. It'll be fine, completely by the books and reasonable."

"That makes it worse," Izuku sighs. "It'll be another Aizawa."

"Yeah, but if it is, you can sue."

"It won't be though," Hagakure adds. "It'll be great. You'll have fun."

"Yeah. Fun."

"More fun than I'll be having. I looked my mentor up and there hasn't been a single news article about him. Ever."

"Tesutesu, that's because you picked a windbag," Tokage says. "You saw the years active on the sheet, right?"

"Yeah, and forty years means he'll have a ton of experience," Tesutesu argues. "But there isn't any info on him. At all. And since he's one of the guys who'll take anyone even if they don't have an offer…"

"That doesn't mean anything," Hagakure interjects.

"Yeah," Izuku agrees, "seriously. Just cause he'll take anybody doesn't mean he's bad. Actually, it's probably because he's really good. UA approved him for anyone and everyone, even those who suck at everything."

"Thanks."

"Not you, dumbass. You just got screwed by that Shinso sh*t."

"What was that kid's deal, anyway?" Tokage asks. Izuku groans.

"To whine about how unfair the world was like a child. It was something out of a tragic backstory spiel in a c-list drama."

"That bad?"

"He called me privileged."

"Damn."

"Yeah."

There's a pause, and Izuku watches the other people on the train platform for a moment. "So," Hagakure says, stretching the word out. "Think we'll see any action?"

"N—"

"Midoriya, you'll see some."

"N—"

"It's Nighteye."

"That's exactly why I won't!"

"Sure. The man who worked with All Might is just gonna let you stay locked up in a box all week."

"It wouldn't be surprising." Izuku has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from groaning in annoyance. Slowly he turns, catching an unfortunate eyeful of Aizawa.

"Eraserhead."

"It's Sir or Mister Aizawa."

"In school." Izuku looks around. "We're on a train platform. I only see the pro hero Eraserhead."

Aizawa narrows his eyes, seemingly too tired to deal with Izuku. "Very well. But Nighteye is a weird one. Very strict and very hard to please. He'll work you to the bone and only let you out if he thinks you're ready."

"Cool. That's all?"

"No. He's got a penchant for taking on pet projects." Aizawa sniffs as he looks Izuku over, zeroing in on his unkempt traveling clothes. "Try not to become one. It wouldn't be good for your long term health."

"Would I not make a good guinea pig?" Izuku asks, jutting his chin out. "I figured with all the sh*t you pull on me I'd be used to reacting to cruel and unusual stimuli."

Aizawa raises an eyebrow. "You're far too vicious to be a guinea pig. A lab rat, on the other hand… perhaps there's use for you after all."

Izuku stews in anger the whole first leg of the train ride. It's an ugly kind, the sort that makes his friends leer away just a little. Not a lot. They still sit next to him and try to poke him into smiling with words and their actual fingers. But the way he stares at the floor of the training and angrily fiddles with his costume case keeps them from getting too close.

"You're not useless."

"I know. And the great part is that Aizawa doesn't think so anymore! I've graduated from a waste of space to a spare body. Amazing, right?"

"He's doing that to get to you. He wants you to f*ck things up with Nighteye."

"I've already got that covered."

"See, he's gotten under your skin. He's in your head again. Block him out or something, he's winning."

"I know, and I hate it. I just… I just want to get him back somehow."

"Punch his lights out," Tokage suggests.

"Maybe don't go to jail for assault," Hagakure counters. "He'd deserve it, but, like. It'd be a dumb move. Try something nonviolent."

"Like what? Smear his reputation? He doesn't have one. There's nothing legal and nonviolent I can do to get to him."

"Not true. You could get him fired."

"Have you seen him teach?" Izuku scoffs, resting his head against the back of his seat. "He hates his job. It'd be a blessing for him."

"And the principal would cover for him," Tesutesu reminds. "He did it before in that interview, remember? Nedzu's clearly on Aizawa's side. So you'd be against an entire academic institution."

"Exactly. And on the off chance I win, I don't get to graduate from UA. You guys probably won't, either, just for associating with me."

"Yeah, but…" Tokage trails off, pulling out her phone and opening an app like nothing happened.

Izuku narrows his eyes. "But what?"

"Nothing."

"It doesn't sound like nothing."

"Yeah, because you're an idiot."

"I'm not an—"

"Could we just relax for the rest of the ride?" Hagakure asks. "It's twenty minutes, then we change trains. I don't want to go away for a week right after an argument."

Izuku doesn't even bother to hide his suspicion for the rest of the ride. He doesn't say a word, but Tokage doesn't escape his pointed looks. Not that she seems to care. Her phone takes all her attention, and as tempting as it might be to swipe it for a laugh, Hagakure is sort of right. They're going to be separate for a week. Leaving on a sour note would feel wrong.

He still complains about it mentally, though.

When the train finally comes to a stop, Izuku stands and gets off. Hagakure and Tesutesu follow, leaving Tokage alone on the train. The three of them break up with quick goodbyes, and Izuku makes his way to his platform to wait.

Izuku relaxes against a support beam. A few centimeters out from his shoes is a bright yellow line, warning him of the danger of falling off the platform and onto the tracks. He doesn't think much of it—there's hundreds if not thousands of warnings like it all over Japan. But the bright color draws his eyes. Downward he looks, first at the characters and then at the dark metal of the tracks. He doesn't know why he stares. Maybe it's just because there's nothing better to do.

A pit forms in his chest, big and ugly and black. His pulse picks up. His eyes latch onto the steel of the rails, and his fingers itch as they grip his suitcase. He's not thinking right. There's enough thoughts for him to realize it, but he can't understand why he's feeling this way. His legs start to shake. His feet inch forwards. He wants to jump, even as he feels the train coming closer. Why? It makes no sense. He's not in the best of moods but he's not… not that. And yet the rails are welcoming, holding their arms wide open, tempting him. The end will be pleasantly empty.

"Would it be alright if I sat with you?"

Izuku jumps, not forward but up as the train screeches to a halt. He looks to his left and then angles his eyes upward. Yaoyorozu stands over him, just a few centimeters closer than what would normally be considered comfortable. Predictably, Izuku stumbles over his words. "I… uh. Yeah?"

Yaoyorozu nods, taking a half step back to look at the other people waiting for the train. Izuku follows her eyes to see a trio of sleazy looking men in suits, all with their phones out but blatantly staring over at them. "Ah," Izuku says. "Yeah, definitely."

"Thank you. I hope it's not too much trouble."

"There's no trouble," Izuku says as the doors to the train open. He steps back and lets her get on first. "It's… really, I'm just doing what any decent person should. Are you also going—"

"To Nighteye's agency?" Yaoyorozu asks, picking out a seat right next to the door.

"I was gonna ask about the city," Izuku says. "I thought I was the only one to get an offer from him. Unless…"

"I am going to intern with Sir Nighteye," Yaoyorozu quickly clarifies. "You are as well, right? I thought I heard something about it from my classmates but I wasn't certain."

"Yeah, I am," Izuku says, sitting down. "He, uh. He was my only offer."

Yaoyorozu's brow shoots up. "Really? I would've figured that you'd have gotten the most."

Izuku shakes his head. "Nah. I got one, and I fully expected it. Because of my… condition I'm bound to be seen as weak and not worth any time."

"That's so backwards," Yaoyorozu exclaims. "You placed first. No matter the circ*mstances it means that you were the best UA had to offer."

Izuku laughs, more than a little bitter. "Not really. Honestly, you're probably the one who deserves the most recognition. You showed off the most skill and creativity. I just got lucky—not that I didn't work hard. I did. But everyone saw that I got a break, and if you combine that with the fact that I don't have a Quirk…"

"It's still foolish," Yaoyorozu says, sounding appalled. "The fact that you even made it to the third round is impressive. I mean—"

"No, no, I get it," Izuku says, cutting her off before she can apologize. "I'm, uh. I'm aware of the fact that I'm objectively weaker than just about everybody out there. No power means I'm at a disadvantage in pretty much every scenario. I'm not gonna be like All Might or Endeavor or Hawks. But I can still try, you know? I can still work hard and be great. My potential is just lower than yours."

Yaoyorozu's expression sours. "That's a pessimistic way to put it, but I suppose you're right. Even still, you deserve more recognition for what you've done. The slander and indifference you've received is unfounded."

Izuku smiles bitterly. "Thanks, but I don't think the perception will change anytime soon. I've already made my impression."

"Nonsense! I'm sure things could get better. You just have to put yourself out there." Yaoyorozu laces her fingers in her lap, one part excited and one part serious. "If people see that you're a nice person, they'll like you."

Izuku laughs. "You, uh, you went to some kind of fancy school, didn't you?"

"I was homeschooled, actually."

"Figures. People don't like things like me popping up. I'm loud and obnoxious, and I go against everything they know about what heroes should be. It's not surprising that they'll hate me."

"Well then," Yaoyorozu says, sitting up a little straighter, "we'll have to agree to disagree."

Izuku shrugs. "Sure. Whatever."

Whatever sense of casualness Izuku and Yaoyorozu had disappears the minute they catch sight of Nighteye's building. It looks boring and bland from the outside, but the marble sign outside the front door lets everyone know exactly what kind of place it is. Even the lobby feels choked as Izuku steps in through the front door. He straightens his spine as he inhales the cool office air, and the tile makes him take more careful steps.

"Are you the internship kids?" the person at the front desk asks. They're wearing a suit but the fact that their head is a literal centipede kinda throws any and all norms out the window.

Izuku looks at Yaoyorozu who takes another step forward. "Yes. Yaoyorozu Momo and…"

"Midoriya Izuku."

The desk attendant nods, standing up and walking around to greet them. They're tall, stupidly so, and extend a gloved hand for them to shake. "I'm Centipeder, one of Nighteye's sidekicks. I'm the most direct combat oriented hero here, though our work-study beats me out."

"Work-study?"

"Something for later," Centipeder waves off, releasing Yaoyorozu's hand to take Izuku's. "However you should know that we're not about flashiness or feats of raw power."

"That's kinda why we're here," Izuku says, looking up and into Centipeders' eyes. "I mean, neither of us are good for mass amounts of power."

"So I've heard." Centipeder turns, beckoning for them to follow. "Sir will like that. For all the years he worked with All Might, he prefers a more delicate approach to heroism. It's why he hired me and the other sidekick, along with our work-study kid. And it's why he sent you two offers, too."

"He thinks we're a good fit here, then," Yaoyorozu concludes as Centipeder leads them into an elevator.

"Actually, no." Centipeder hits the button for the top floor, clacking their mandibles as music begins to play. "Before you say anything, being a good fit here would be more about your personalities. We barely know you. However, we've seen you fight in the festival and think that you could learn a lot from us."

"So we won't just be learning from Nighteye, then."

"Heavens no!" Centipeder chuckles, patting their chest as the elevator slows to a halt. "Sir is… he's not the best at directly teaching. You'll learn from him, as well as myself, the other sidekick, the work-study student, and…" they trial off, stepping off the elevator. "Well, Midoriya, you'll see."

"I don't like way you said that." Izuku follows Centipeder closely, trying to get a read on them. "Like, I really don't like it. What's going on?"

"Nothing bad, I promise. We just have someone extra waiting for you specifically."

"What?"

"He wanted to meet with you, but he's not licenced to take interns," Centipeder explains. "So Sir offered a line to you. I hope you don't mind, he's a… seasoned fighter."

"Who—"

Centipeder sharply stops and reaches for a doorknob. They knock on the door, eliciting a muffled, "Who's there?"

"An interrupting Centipede."

"An interrupting Centipede wh—"

Centipeder clacks their mandibles, loud enough to make Izuku cover his ears. The noise comes to a stop, and a pained groan can be heard through the door. "Enter."

The door swings inward, and Centipeder steps aside to let Izuku and Yaoyorozu in first. "They're here, earlier than expected."

"As they should," a man who can only be Nighteye himself says. The office contradicts his demeanor, as just watching him turn his chair around to stand makes Izuku want to shine his shoes, while the walls are covered in All Might posters. Rare ones, too, some easily over five thousand yen. "Punctuality is something that cannot be overstated." Nighteye looks over his shoulder at another man sitting in the corner on a stool. He's sleeping, arms crossed over his chest and a line of drool running down his chin.

Nighteye kicks the stool out from under the man, sending him tumbling to the floor with a flurry of swears. The man, who is stocky and rough looking, stands. "The hell's wrong with you?"

"They're here."

The man narrows his eyes, slowly gaining his bearings and rubbing his stubbled chin. "I don't give two sh*ts about the girl."

"I know, but some decency would do you good." Nighteye sniffs, walking forward to look more closely at Izuku and Yaoyorozu. "Don't forgive him. He knows what he's doing. Both with his attitude and in combat. Miss Yaoyorozu, you'll be with me. Midoriya, you'll be with my… acquaintance."

"For what?" Izuku asks, not even bothering to hide his suspicion for the other man.

"Evaluation. You're here to learn and we can't teach you if we don't know what you're capable of."

"You saw us in the festival though," Yaoyorozu points out. "Shouldn't that be enough?"

Nighteye and the man scoff in tandem. "The last thing I would do is base one's training in their performance in a publicity stunt. You'll have a real test of still right…" Nighteye checks his watch. "In five minutes," he finishes. "Yaoyorozu, there's lockers on this floor, meet me in the lobby. Oguro… do whatever."

Izuku watches as Nighteye, Yaoyorozu, and Centipeder leave through the door. He turns back around to look at the man, a little on edge. "Who…"

"Like it matters," thean grumbles, but diggs through the pockets of his heavy coat anyway. He pulls out a strip of cloth and ties it around his head, covering his hair and eyes. Then, he tosses Izuku a pair of metal objects. Heavy, matte, and sharp brass knuckles land in his palms, and he nearly drops them. Izuku looks at the weapons and then at the man. "Take a guess. You're s'posed to be smart."

Izuku clenches the brass knuckles in his hands. "You're… you're Knuckleduster, aren't you?"

"Yeah."

"But… why me?"

Knuckle Duster snorts. "Figured you wouldn't know. Gimme my stuff back, would ya?" Izuku hands them over and watches as Knuckleduster dawns his namesakes. "It's 'cause I'm Quirkless, kid. Just like you."

Izuku stares for a moment, shocked. Something stirs within his chest, but he quickly kills it. Like hell he'll trust some random vigilante off the street. So, as he'll later learn, he stupidly opens his mouth. "Bull-f*cking-sh*t."

Notes:

Oh, Izuku. A shame you've had the notion of it being impossible for someone Quirkless to make it drilled into your head. Now you get to deal with a pissed off mentour. Two once Nighteye's through as well, because we all know that man has a stick up his ass. Oh well.

Also, this one took so long and I'm a little embarrassed about it. I've just been so busy and it's annoying. Hopefully I get more free time, though. Nothing's changing I'm just clinging to a hope that I have no reason having. Sorry for any drop in quality. See you in the next one.

Discord:
https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Chapter 31

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"What did you just say?"

"I call bullsh*t. You've got a Quirk, there's no way you don't." Izuku digs his heels in, puffing out his chest and looking Knuckleduster dead in the eye.

"I'd know better than you, boy," the man says, sounding more peeved than offended. "I've been beating up punks without a Quirk since before you were born. Don't act all high and mighty around me, you're far from the first Quirkless sh*t to have a go at this whole hero thing."

"Uh huh, and how do you explain what you've been able to do?" Izuku resists the urge to spit, shoving his hands into his pocket as memories of new articles come to mind. "Ten villains taken down in one night. Permanent brain damage given to a man from a single punch. You were hit with a car twice and came back within weeks. If you don't have a Quirk I'm… I'm f*cking handicapped."

"Oh, you're definitely something." Knuckleduster points at Izuku, clearly unimpressed. "Look at you. Short, skinny, fresh faced and young."

"I'm not f*cking fresh—"

"One run in with terrorists and you're a vet?" Izuku holds his tongue, and Knuckleduster smirks. "Yeah. That patch on your face isn't worth a damn yet. You've had one, I've had hundreds. I can do all that impossible bullsh*t because I'm a damn professional. You're a punk kid with anger issues."

"I do not have—"

"Do you?" Knuckleduster bends down, jutting his chin out and looking Izuku dead in the eye. "You're pissed. I can tell. Pissed at yourself, pissed at the world, pissed at everything. You f*cking hate yourself don't you? You don't think you're capable of anything. You're such an idiot that you can't see the value of other people like you. I could see it in your eyes when I saw those videos. Get off your high horse and quit projecting your own self loathing on to me."

Izuku can't help it. White hot rage courses through his veins. It consumes him, and, against his better judgement, he swings.

Knuckleduster blocks. Because of course he does. Izuku claws at the man's hand as Knuckleduster jerks him around, trying to break free. Then, all of a sudden, he's sent flying into the wall. Picture frames rattle, and Nighteye's desk scrapes against the floor. Izuku gets back up, dropping into a stance and going right back in again. He ducks under a hook and steps into Knuckleduster's guard. He jabs, trying to get a hit in on the man's kidneys. Then Knuckleduster knees him in the gut and sends him sprawling back again.

"You done yet?"

Izuku lets out an angry huff as he resists the urge to clutch at his ribs. He lunges to the side, grabbing a chair and throwing it directly at Knuckleduster. There's not a lot of force behind it, and the man catches it easily. But Izuku follows his throw, sneaking in again and kicking Knuckleduster right in the groin.

"Mother—"

Izuku tries for an uppercut, but his hand is snatched up. He claws and bites, earning his freedom before trying to get his bearings. Izuku jumps back only for his leg to be swept out from under him. He lands on his backside, quickly rolling to avoid a vicious stomp. He kicks at his opponent's knees. A grunt of pain follows, allowing for just a split second to get back up. And then he's promptly decked in the face.

He sees stars. Bright and flickering on and off, they dance across his vision. His head spins, and he feels his knees hit the floor. Or at least he thinks so. Any sensation other than the throbbing in his head takes the backseat as he cups his face, groaning as he tries to get back up and keep fighting.

"Good lord you're a stubborn one." A hand grabs the collar of his shirt, housting him up and forcing Izuku to stand up straight. Izuku takes a swipe, aiming for where he knows Knuckleduster's kidney is. He makes contact, but it feels like he's punching a wall. "Will you knock it off?" Knuckleduster says, roughly shoving Izuku away.

"No," Izuku grunts, though with the pain in his jaw it comes out closer to a rough nah. "Keep going. 'M not done yet."

Knuckleduster scoffs, and the thumping of footsteps head towards the door tells Izuku that it's all over. "Get some ice for your face and think about not being a jackass. I'll evaluate you for real once you're not hot."

"The hell—" the door to Nighteye's office slams shut, and Izuku forces his eyes open to glare at it. He clenches his fists. Nails bite into his palms, the pinpricks of pain serving as reminders to calm back down. He breathes, ragged and heavy before forcing himself to calm down. He's not angry. He's fine. He's being perfectly rational and decent, and the fact that he wants to curse and break Nighteye's desk means absolutely nothing.

Who is he kidding. There's no way that he's not overreacting right now. This isn't normal. He's gotten mad before but not like that. What's wrong with him?

Kicking the floor, Izuku shoves all of that baggage to the side. He pulls out his phone and looks at his face in the camera. There's a small cut on his cheek, the one opposite the scar. Blotches of purple run from the corner of his eye to his chin. Izuku touches his face with a firm finger. There's pain, but not a lot of it. He doesn't think anything is broken, though he'd hardly be able to tell.

Izuku slips his phone into his pocket and walks over to pick up his costume case. Then he walks out the door and slams it shut. It's immature. Nighteye didn't do anything and Knuckleduster… Well, he's lying to him so he deserves some kind of attitude, but it's mostly Izuku's fault for feeling this way. He couldn't keep a hold of his anger which is all on him. Izuku just wishes that he knew why he felt that way. But he doesn't.

Navigating Nighteye's agency isn't very hard. Izuku heads back to the elevator and pushes the button for the ground floor. Once the ride ends he gets out and heads for the front desk where Centipeder sits. "You got any ice?"

Centipeders' mandibles clack together curiously. "I thought I heard a commotion. What happened?"

"I ran my mouth. Justifiably," Izuku quickly adds. "He… he's an ass. I am too, but I got what I gave and I couldn't handle it and then…" Izuku mimes throwing a punch and sighs again.

"I see. Here." Centipeder reaches under the desk and tosses Izuku a ring of keys. "Bubble Girl's in the infirmary. It's down the left hallway, you won't miss it."

Izuku jingles the keys. "What're these for, then?"

Centipeders' eyes gleam with mirth. "Give them to Bubble Girl, would you? Tell her they're from Sir."

Izuku walks down the hallway and soon sees an open door with a red cross above it. Soft music plays and a voice hums along. Izuku crosses the threshold and looks around awkwardly. "Hello?"

"Hmm?" A chair wheels itself from behind a corner, and a literal blue woman in a hero costume smiles as she catches sight of Izuku. "Hey! You're that Midoriya kid, right? Nice to meet you?"

"Thanks?" Izuku points to his face. "I appreciate it, but—" an ice back cuts him off, nearly hitting him in the chest. Izuku drops the keys to catch it, slowly bringing it towards his face as the woman gets up from the chair and walks over.

"What happened?" she asks, picking up the keys and handing them to Izuku.

"They're for you." Izuku pushes her hand away. "Uh. They're from Nighteye?"

The woman raises an eyebrow. "Really? Alright then. I'll give him my thanks later on. I'm Bubble Girl if you didn't know, but… what happens to your face is probably more important."

Izuku shrugs. "I got decked."

Bubble Girl sighs, walking back over to her office chair and motioning for Izuku to take a seat on a nearby exam bed. "Obviously. But by who? Sir isn't that vicious with newbies, Togata's not around, and Centipeder…"

"It was Knuckleduster."

"He's here?" Bubble Girl leans back in her chair, doubtful. "Ah, so that's why he's been hanging around here more lately. I must've missed him coming in this morning. Anyways, why'd he try to kill you?"

"I…" Izuku trails off with a shrug. He tries to rely the story in as best detail as possible, though he leaves out a few parts. When he's finished Bubble Girl looks at him with a mixture of skepticism and worry.

"Your face should be fine. Knuckleduster knows how to pull punches even if he's a brute. But, uh… you do know he's actually Quirkless, right?"

Izuku rolls his eyes. "There's no way in hell he is. His Quirk probably isn't very strong or flashy but it has to be there. No one… no one without a power could shake off the hits he's taken or deal the damage he's done." Izuku shifts the ice pack around, hitting a different section of his bruise. "He's too sturdy. He's not natural. Well, he is, but it's all from a Quirk."

Bubble Girl purses her lips. "He's… he actually is. I know it seems impossible, but there's other factors at play. Ask… you've got Eraserhead for your homeroom right?"

Izuku's expression sourers. "Unfortunately."

"Yeah, well," Bubble Girl says with a chuckle, "ask him. He can prove it—and he has. Knuckleduster's as Quirkless as you."

"I still don't believe it." Izuku wiggles in his seat, trying to get comfy on the unforgiving plastic of the exam table. "He's not normal. I've read up on him because I like to box and stuff. He's amazing at street fighting, but that can only take him so far. He's gotta have something. Enhanced reflexes, truamma resistance, heightened bone density…"

"You'd be surprised about what the base human can accomplish," Bubble Girl says, opening a draw. She tosses Izuku a candy bar and pops a piece of gum in her mouth. "I'm not saying you're wrong or incorrect for thinking that way. You've been conditioned to just like me and everyone else. But he's Quirkless. I've seen proof. Just read up a little, yeah? And maybe try to make things up with him? You're stuck here for a week."

Izuku half sighs and half laughs. "That's what he said, only…"

"Like a thug," Bubble Girl finishes.

"Yeah. Like that. And I've…" Izuku stops, thinking of the first few days of U.A, and all of middle school.

"Dealt with thugs and delinquents, huh?"

"Sure. Even though most people just think I'm the delinquent."

"Yeah, it sucks." Bubble Girl blows a bubble with her gum, popping it as she leans back in her chair, hands resting at the back of her head. "I grew up around a lotta them too. You get used to getting brushed aside and then you get away and get some confidence and world experience and then you see stuff like that again and you just get mad. That's how I was around Knuckleduster for a while. It… this is gonna sound really insensitive, but you just have to grow a thicker skin. That or have a bigger personality."

"Gee, thanks." Izuku sets the ice down, hand cold and wet with condensation. "Why didn't I think of that."

"Sarcasm will get you nowhere here," Bubble Girls says. "It's all puns and dad jokes. It's kinda weird huh?"

"Weird is being nice."

"Watch it you," she says, clearly joking. "Anyways, since you're here and not around the big guys, got any questions? You UA kids are always full of 'em."

Izuku shrugs. "Not really… well, how do you guys know Knuckleduster?"

Bubble Girl brightens. "Oh, that's because we're a little more morally grey when it comes to the law. Sir's an… interesting thinker and he's got his own philosophy. He's not about breaking a few laws for the greater good, though he tries to follow them for the most part."

"So he works with vigilantes?"

"Yep. Not often, though, and only ones he feels are worth the time." Bubble Girl picks up the keys Izuku delivered to her earlier and walks over to the wall behind her. "He actually called in Knuckleduster special, just for you. He hasn't been around here in a few years, ever since Togata came along."

"I'm flattered?" Izuku says, getting off the exam table and walking over to where Bubble Girl stands. She's pressed up against the wall, firmly knocking on the sheetrock. "I was sorta hoping to learn from Sir Nighteye, though."

"You will!" Bubble Girl knocks one spot particularly hard and smiles, clearly satisfied. "He's definitely interested in you, it's just that Yaoyorozu is just a little more fascinating. For him. You've got his and Knuckleduster's eye though. And Togata's. Anyways, you said you were interested in our work with vigilantes?"

"No but now I am."

"Nice. Then you'll love these!" The wall beside Bubble Girl splits open, revealing a small, meter and a half square safe. There's a lock on the front, and she confidently slips one of the keys into the hole. She gives it a turn. "I think this is—"

An explosion cuts her off, and the front of the safe launches a volley of bright pink paint. Izuku jumps back. "What the hell?"

"Just an office prank!" a cheerful voice says. Izuku spins but sees an empty doorway. Footsteps echo from the lobby a few doors down. "Below you!"

Izuku looks at his feet and nearly jumps out of his skin. A smiling face sticks out from the ground, blue eyed and blond haired. "... Bubble Girl, I think there's an intruder."

"Nah, I'm supposed to be here," the head says as Bubble Girl curses her way out of the liters of pink liquid. "And…"

"What on earth happened?" Sir Nighteye bursts into the room. Suit completely threadbare, he still manages to look distinguished as he tries to rake ashes from his hair. Yaoyorozu is hot in his heels in what Izuku thinks is her hero costume. Only it looks more like something he'd see in one of those shops his mom would always cover his eyes when they pass even though he's fifteen and has the internet in his pocket.

"I think Centipeder got her good." The face dips back into the floor for a moment, but quickly resurfaces. Izuku's eyes bug out as he watches an entire body appear from the ground. A very well muscled body. A very well muscled, very much butt-f*cking-naked body. "Man, I remember when they happened to me. How'd you fall for it?"

Izuku quietly closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath and opens them again. Everything remains the same. He comes to the most same conclusion.

"I'm f*cking high right now."

Notes:

I swear I don't intend for Knuckleduster to be a sh*t mentor. That's just kinda out he came across at the start. I think. It's hard to tell. People take things differently than the way I indented them to. Here I want the guy to be seen as a rock. Blut and honest and realistic. But he's also got some pride in him and he can see how f*cked up Izuku is. So that's kinda what happened. There'll be more action in the next chapter and in this arc as a whole. Lol.

This won't be a feel bad arc. There's been enough of those. Hoping for more positive vibes and moments of triumph if I can get Izuku's mental health to be stable. If.

That's all. Join my discord if you want. Sorry for how long this took and how short it is. I had trouble finding time to write.

Discord link:
https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Chapter 32

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"I assure you, Midoriya, you are not under the influence of any illicit substances." Sir Nighteye pushes up his glasses and pats the charred bits of his still smoldering suit. He looks at his fingertips in disgust and removes his classes, procuring a handkerchief from nowhere and wiping the lenses off. "Unless you consumed any while I was away."

"No, I'm pretty sure I didn't," Izuku says, gazing around the room with a blank stare. The entire situation is just so weird that he really just wants to ignore it. But doing so is just impossible. "I… what on earth just happened?"

"Well," Sir Nighteye starts, and then pauses to look at the naked man who's standing proudly with his hands on his hips. "Togata, have some decency."

"Sorry, Sir!" the man says before sinking into the floor.

"Teenagers," Nighteye sighs.

"The bane of our existence," Bubble Girl adds weakly, scraping pink slime off of her arms. "Why are all three of them here again?"

"You wanted it," Centipeder says carefully. They pointedly look away from the mess like it's not something they caused. "I scheduled Mirio for a vacation week, but…"

"Let's not shift the blame, we all were rather foolish leading up to this week." Nighteye closes his eyes for a moment before looking down at Yaoyorozu. "You lady, you performed well before we were interrupted. You and Midoriya will receive more in depth evaluation and instruction after we clean up Centipeders' mess."

"Hey—"

Nighteye cuts off his sidekick with a casual yet challenging look. "Yes?"

"... I suppose I should retrieve the mop."

Izuku kinda drifts through the clean up effort. Some part of him tries to tell the rest that he should be annoyed with being forced to mop up a mess that wasn't his fault when he could be training, but it goes ignored. The entire situation is just too weird, from the way Nighteye scapes the paint off the infirmary's desk while his suit is in tatters to how that phasing guy walks back in wearing a flannel and jeans like everyone didn't just see his bare ass. It all just feels like a fever dream.

"So, how're guy guys liking UA so far?"

Izuku continues to swish the mop around for a second, the words not registering. "Well," Yaoyorozu picks up awkwardly, "I quite like it. My teacher is very skilled and professional. I've already grown by leaps and bounds."

"Nice. That's how it was for me my first year. How about you? Class 1-A's a big deal right now, huh?"

Izuku blinks. "It's alright."

In the corner Bubble Girl chuckles. "Y'hear that, kid? He thinks it's just alright. Maybe that school isn't all it's chalked up to be."

"Didn't you fail the entrance exam? I feel like there's bias there."

"Hey!"

"It's just kinda rough," Izuku continues, more talking to himself. "I mean, I expect that. But my homeroom teacher is kinda sh*tty when it comes to being an actual teacher. We're just sorta thrown at things and forced to improvise."

"Alright, that's a bombshell if I've ever heard one."

Izuku looks up from his mop to see that the only one without a look of shock on his face is the formerly naked man. And Sir Nighteye, but his expression is always dangerously neutral, so he doesn't count. "Wanna talk about it?"

The guy seems friendly and Izuku isn't against sharing a few of Aizawa's more… dickish moments. But. "Who…?"

"Oh, do you not recognize me?"

"I don't even know if you're real."

The guy snorts, running a hand through his hair and resting his own mop on his shoulder. "Yeah, that's fair enough. I've kinda been a cryptid around you. Here." He extends his hand, walking over a few feet for the shorter boy to shake it. It's rough in Izuku's hand, and he notices a few fine white scars. "I'm Togata Mirio. Third year at UA high and champion of the third year Sports Festival."

Izuku blinks. "I'm sorry I didn't recognize you?" he says, letting go of Togata's hand. "Like I would've, and—"

"It's all good!" Togata assures. "You were probably really busy after the festival so it's really no biggy. And, from one champion to another, I don't know who the second year winner is."

"Wow, how the fame has clouded your judgment."

"Ignore Bubble Girl, she's got a case of one liner syndrome."

"Alright?"

"Yep. All right. So, you said you had problems with Aizawa?"

"I…" Izuku trails off, suddenly realizing he's the center of attention now, instead of just having a word with someone new and seemingly pleasant. "Well, I get singled out a lot, y'know? I'm his least favorite. And he makes it obvious that it's because I'm Quirkless. And my classmates aren't the best—the staff too, I guess. No one really sticks up for me except my friends. I like being at the school but the people make it suck."

"One could argue that it's what you'll be experiencing every day for the rest of your life," Centipeder says carefully, as though they know know it'll go over.

"Gee, I've never heard that one before," Izuku says, fixing the mutant with a flat stare. He looks away and goes back to moping. "I'm dealing with it at least. It's just… the man's a teacher. They all are. They should be better."

"That's often how hero students feel," Sir Nighteye speaks up from the corner of the room. "Especially first years. They enroll expecting a perfect, almost anime-like highschool experience. Then they find it's not all it's cracked up to be. Aizawa is difficult, but he doesn't want you dead."

"I like how you didn't say he doesn't hate me."

"... And he'll be punished if he goes over the line. However," Nighteye continues, checking his watch, "now is the time to put school behind us and start focusing on the real world. Meet me in the basem*nt in ten minutes for more combat trials. Yaoyorozu, you too."

"But I just—"

Nighteye exits the door without another word. Izuku looks at the man's sidekicks with confusion. "You might wanna get suited up," Togata says, "he'll have a fresh suit on in five and expect you to be there early, just like him. If you're not, well…"

The older teen let's that hang in the air for a moment. Izuku looks to Yaoyorozu. The girl nods. "Grab your costume case."

Eight minutes. A firefighter he is not, Midoriya takes eight minutes to put on his rather basic costume. He blames himself for putting on just enough muscle since first getting it to make it a pain to zip up. And the clasp on the respirator.

"A stealth hero?" Yaoyorozu asks pleasantly as she leads him down a set steps toward a training hall. "I suppose it would make the most sense with your fighting style, though with your…"

"Personality," Izuku finishes, smiling as she sputters and tries to deny it. "No, I get that I come off as flashy and loud and egotistical. But, like, I try not to be stupid. I… I learned a long ago that I need to be realistic, and the whole underground hero route is the best for me."

"Won't that get in the way of the recognition you want?" Yaoyorozu pries. "Er, you do want recognition, right? I apologize for assuming, you just seem like the type of person to demand respect when it's deserved."

"That," Izuku says, "was about the nicest way you could've put that. And yeah, I do. But there's no reason why I can't be stealthy and respected at the same time, right?" They come to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, right in front of a large wooden door. The smell of smoke seeps from the cracks. "Hey, before I go in, can I ask—"

"Don't let him touch you and be ready to dodge," Yaoyorozu suggests. Izuku coughs.

"Not what I was going for, but thanks. Um." He steals a glance her way before awkwardly grabbing the handle. "I just have to ask or it's gonna drive me nuts. Wh… why are you dressed like a stripper?"

"I—"

Yaoyorozu's reaction is cut short by the door ripping open. Izuku stumbles through, colliding with a sturdy chest before backing away. Knuckleduster looks down at him, utterly indifferent. "Get in there, boy, we're waitin' for ya."

Izuku nods, double chucking his costume. All the pads are secure, his gadgets are in place, and his knife is tucked securely in his left boot. Knuckleduster watches him do his check silently, staring at the way Izuku's form moves. "Nighteye," the man beacons, "he's ready."

Izuku shrugs as he steps through the door. "Yeah, just give me a se—"

Something slams into the floor just to the left of Izuku's feet. He jumps, diving to the side and tucking into a roll as he looks in the direction the projectile came from.

"Quick on your feet. I suppose you would've made it this far if you weren't." Nighteye stands five or so meters away, posed artfully, with one arm crossed over his waist and the opposite elbow resting on it. His hand fans over his face, letting one golden eye poke through. Tucked between his knuckles are three seals, the kind you'd find in museums of the middle ages kings would use for letters. "Though I wonder…"

Izuku lunges forward, slanting his chest as Nighteye jerks his arm forward. The seal goes wide, impacting the wall behind Izuku as the boy tries to close the gap. However Nighteye throws another seal before he can, and Izuku is forced to dive off course once more.

"No ranged attacks? A shame. You'd surely die without one." Izuku pauses for a moment, watching the careful fingers Nighteye uses to cradle his final seal. His hand itches for a smoke bomb, but he knows that it would be damning. Nighteye can see the future somehow, and is clearly toying with him. If he pops smoke, then it'll only be blinding him. Nighteye will be free to do as he pleases. So Izuku opts to rush again.

"Fascinating. Do you think it'll work the second time?"

The last seal is thrown. Instead of moving to the side, Izuku slides. The padding of his costume takes the brunt of the friction, with his legs taking most of his weight. He tries to get up in one fluid motion, but he hasn't practiced getting out of a slide much if at all. His movement is jerky, slow and unconfident. Still, he gets to his feet and continues to charge. Nighteye meets him halfway.

Izuku gets a feel for the man's quirk right from the first attack. A loose fist that extends into an open palm as it reaches striking distance. Izuku blocks it with his right forearm, shifting forward to try and hook one of the man's long legs with his own. Nighteye shoves Izuku away with one of his elbows, creating the space he needs to work with his lanky frame. So, of course, Izuku gets up close again.

"You're not an idiot," Nighteye observes as Izuku sways away from a hook. It's followed by a vicious jab, which Izuku manages to slip. He goes for a grapple, trying to get a hold on the taller man's suit.

"I didn't win that tournament with just luck," Izuku grunts, shifting his weight to try and pull Nighteye off balance.

"Perhaps." Nighteye goes with the momentum, adding his own to flip over Izuku's head and slip from his grip. He lands on his feet, shuffling away. "Though that remains to be seen."

It should be impossible to move that fast. Not without an enhancer. And yet Nighteye covers the distance between the two of them in the blink of an eye, and Izuku suddenly finds himself flat on his back. He lashes out, instinctively trying to deck Nighteye across the face, or somewhere more sensitive. He strikes somewhere soft and fleshy, earning a little bit of breathing room. He tries to wriggle free, but something hits him across the face, and soon ropes bind his wrists.

"You're slow. Physically, anyway. Mentally you're plenty fast, but against anyone more seasoned than a freshly graduated sidekick you may as well be a snail. Get a ranged weapon figured out on your own. We'll get the rest of your issues figured out here."

Izuku strains against the rope binding his wrists, glancing up at Nighteye, who looks down at him. "And those would be?"

"Reading attacks, faster counters, and using your resources. You have that belt for a reason, I'm almost disgusted at the fact that you didn't at least try for a smoke bomb."

"That—"

"Your thought process may have been intelligent," Nighteye says, squatting down to look Izuku in the eyes. The gleam of his glasses is nearly blinding, despite the fact that there isn't a window in the entire room. "However when you're up against someone so far beyond your level that they could end the fight in an instant, every option must be explored. You've gotten a glimpse of this—what happened at the USJ was tragic and horrifying, but you can learn from it.

"You're very good at fighting how someone like you should fight," Nighteye continues. "Vicious, barbaric, dirty. However to take things to the next level you must be able to take the proper risks. And that starts with being able to read an opponent."

"I can already sort of do that," Izuku says, straining against his bonds. "Not like you can or even how someone like Togata could. He's got way more experience than me, right?"

Nighteye nods and stands. He pulls on a section of the ropes tying Izuku up, unwrapping the boy in under a second. "It comes with experience, yes, but it mostly comes from practice. That's why before I let you on patrol at the end of the week, you'll be drilling with myself, Mirio, and Knuckleduster. Just the same as Yaoyorozu."

Izuku takes a deep breath and quickly stands. He glances at where Knuckleduster and Yaoyorozu stand, both with reserved expressions, though the vigilante makes a show of picking under his nails. "Alright," Izuku agrees, "how do we start?"

Nighteye remains impassive, but just the barest of a twitch can be seen in the corner of his right eye. "Slowly."

Notes:

Kinda feels empty, no? Like I totally get if you're not thrilled with the job I did on this one—I know it's lacking the sort of meat I usually fit in. Kinda fitting that I wrote it in a few afternoons after playing with my family over a holiday break. It's got a bit a lazy vibe to it, I think.

Things will pick up in the next one. Hopefully with some new fighting ideas and the start of a patrol. And some friendship stuff. Again, sorry for the wait. I'm stupidly busy. Later.

Discord? Discord.
https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Chapter 33

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Keep your eyes on the hips and waist!"

Izuku slips under a punch and fights the urge to swear as Togata slips into the floor again, red cape fluttering. "What hips? I can't see them half the t—" a flash of gold and white appears in front of him. Izuku dives towards it, trying to tackle the bigger boy. He phases through and hits the ground on the other side.

"Better," Knuckleduster grunts as Izuku tucks into a roll and pops back up. The boy resists the urge to curse under his breath, saving his energy to dodge as Togata phases upward and tries to uppercut him.

"Hey, you're getting slightly better!"

"He's right!" Togata cheers, shooting out of the ceiling and nearly cracking Izuku's skull open with an axe kick. Izuku only barely manages to step away, failing to land a counter afterwards as Togata phases away again. "It's actually impressive!"

Izuku glares at the ground for a moment before sprinting as fast as he can across the room. He picks hai direction without thinking, and when Togata pops back up, it's a solid six meters away from him. Cautiously, Izuku watches as Togata sinks into the floor. This time it's at such a slow place that Izuku can see how every centimeter of clothing and skin goes with him. The way the older boy smiles turns from joyful and pleasant to something more akin to a cat fooling around with a mouse.

"I think you impressed him a little too much."

Izuku thinks better of opening his mouth. He moves away from the wall instead, taking two steps forward and one to the left. He crouches, coiling like a spring as he shifts on the balls of his feet. Seconds pass, each one feeling like an eternity. Izuku loses count of how long he stands there.

"Check this out!"

Izuku is swept off his feet with a flash of white and blue. He promptly lands on his ass, attempting to roll away. But Togata tackles him. Soon Izuku's pinned by his wrists, unable to kick at his assailant as he helplessly watches his feet phase through Togata's navel. He taps the floor three times.

"You only lasted a little longer than the girl," Knuckleduster remarks. "I like how you fight better, though. She takes too long to think with that fancy power of hers. You just move."

"Thinking is important, too," Togata butts in. "You clearly have a good head. How'd you figure out I couldn't see you when I'm permeable?"

Izuku shrugs. "You always snuck up behind me the first few times you attacked. When I got used to turning it started to become random, like you didn't know where I was facing. And when I ran the other direction and you didn't follow, I figured you couldn't hear, either."

Togata smiles even wider. "Nice! Most people with your level of experience don't think that so quickly. And mid-fight, too. You've got a knack for thinking on the fly."

"Fanboy will love that," Knuckleduster comments. "Your mentor is gonna put him through the ringer, LeMillion. Go grab him, would ya? It's 'bout time we switched again. I'll go a few rounds with the boy while we wait."

"Sure thing, sir! Later, Midoriya!"

Knuckleduster hoists himself off of the stool he'd been sitting on, walking over with an easy confidence Izuku's seen in more experienced fighters. His steps are slow and even, quiet too. When he reaches Izuku he rests his hands on his hips and co*cks his head to the side, spitting on the floor. "How long've you been fighting?"

"About a year. Probably less," Izuku replies curtly. Knuckleduster grunts.

"How hard and often do you work?"

"Almost daily for a few hours."

"Explains why you're not god awful." Knuckleduster massages his hands, slipping his brass knuckles off and putting them in a pocket. "Most of you dumb hero teens have nothing for trianing before school. Or worse, they learn from sh*t sources. You, though, you've got a good teacher or two in your corner."

Izuku keeps silent, and Knuckleduster sheds his coat. "Take me down." Izuku snorts, almost laughing in the man's face.

"And get my jaw broken? No thanks. I'd rather go around with Nighteye or Togata. At least they—"

"What? Go easy?" Knuckleduster shakes his head, appalled at the idea. "They ain't going any harder than I'd go against you. You're a damn kid. An idiot, loudmouth kid who can't keep his mouth shut. But if I bash your head in too hard I'd really mess you up. I've been doing this for decades." He holds up one massive, calloused fist. "I know how to pull my punches."

Izuku sinks low, flexing his legs. They're sore and bruised from his spar and from the stunt he pulled with Knuckleduster the day before. And the fight with Nighteye. And the quick and condensed workout he crammed in the previous night. His thighs and hamstrings ache against the fabric of his costume. Really, he should've thought ahead, but the temptation to keep working had just been too much. Now he's paying for it.

"You gonna go or wha—"

Izuku dives at the man's feet, landing with his hands and throwing his weight to turn as fast as he can. In doing so, he kicks at Knuckleduster's ankles. His foot may as well hit a brick wall for all the good it does, but Izuku rolls with it, kicking off of Knuckleduster's leg to create some breathing room.

His opponent keeps the pressure up, however, lunging forward with a retracted right arm. Izuku ducks under the punch and slips to Knuckleduster's right, jabbing the man in the side. "You're slow," Izuku mutters. Right before he's forced to sprawl backwards to avoid a blindingly fast backhand.

"Don't get smart or co*cky." Knuckleduster aims a hard kick at Izuku's ribs, but the boy rolls away and stands, backpedalling as the man marches forward. "I'm a villain to you. You're in a fight, about to die. Beat me!"

Izuku hurls a smoke bomb at his face. He's never used the things much, but he manages to mail Knuckleduster right on the nose. There's a poof. Izuku rushes forward under the grey smoke, reading a noise maker in his right hand and his taser in his left. Knuckleduster moves out of the smoke, sticking his head out to the side. There's only two or so square meters of smoke to use as cover, but Izuku is small. Tiny, compared to Knuckleduster. He easily slips around behind the man, but he's quickly clipped by a wild strike. Izuku moves back, throwing the noisemaker at where he thinks Knuckleduster's face is.

A crack, followed by a whirring noise takes the place of the smoke as it disappears. Izuku suddenly wishes he had a flashbang or two as Knuckleduster rushes him, unfazed by the sound.

The strikes Knuckleduster tries to land are slower. Still quick and full of bone-rattling power, but Izuku can dodge them if he focuses. Duck, slide to the left, hop back, weave, and repeat. There's a rhythm to it. Yet Knuckleduster varies his punches enough to force Izuku keep on his toes, forcing the boy's mind right onto him. Izuku grows tired of it.

He moves away from the man. It's difficult to find a spot to slip out of Knuckleduster's guard, but when he finds one Izuku dives away. The man chases, herding Izuku towards a wall as he does. Izuku lets himself get dangerously close to being pinned to the wall, laying his shoulders flat against it as Knuckleduster charges forwards. Izuku flicks on his taser, sets it to max power, and throws it. Knuckleduster raises a hand to bat it away, but the part that sparks catches his bare palm.

"sh*t," the man hisses. Izuku throws another smoke bomb for good measure as he approaches, driving his shoulder into Knuckleduster's diaphragm. The man's weight shifts just the slightest amount backwards. Izuku ducks under his legs and scampers up the man's back as Izuku reaches for his right boot. Predictably, his opponent grabs at him. But Izuku was more than prepared.

"Dead," Izuku says, hands shaking as he lightly presses Eraserhead's knife into the underside of Knuckleduster's jaw.

"You never said you had a knife."

"It's an advant—sh*t!" Izuku yells as Knuckleduster grabs his wrist faster than he can react. In a flash, Izuku is laid out on the unforgiving floor, knife fallen three meters away.

"Hardly heroic, but then again I couldn't care less." Knuckleduster approaches and extends a hand. Izuku looks at it for a moment before taking it. He's quickly hoisted up and let go. "Couldn't resist trying to gut me, huh?"

"I'd rather you two didn't break into another scrap," Nighteye says coldly as walks through the doors of the training room. Izuku turns to look at the man and stands a little straighter as the hero picks up Eraserhead's knife with two fingers. "Where'd someone your age get something like this?" Nighteye asks, inspecting the blade.

"It was a white elephant gift," Izuku replies. "I use it because it's useful. I'm willing to trade for it," he offers."

"Keep it," Nighteye says, almost an order. He hands the knife back to Izuku, careful of the blade. "A knife is a good tool, one I carry with me as well. Yours is a good one, though perhaps a little too big for the higher ups in the industry to like. Keep it private."

Izuku sheethes the knife in his boot, making sure it's tightly secured. The blade is warm, even though the holster and his sock. "Thanks."

Nighteye doesn't respond. He turns to Knuckleduster instead, shooing the man out. It's only when the vigilante is gone that he turns to Izuku. "Mirio says that you can be quite good at making predictions."

"I'm not as good as I want to be I guess."

"Good answer. What," Nighteye asks, dropping into a loose fighting stance, "am I about to do?"

"Not a clue, you're just standing there, ready."

"That is not insignificant." Nighteye shifts his weight, putting one foot back a few centimeters. "What now?"

Izuku shrugs. "I don't know."

"Wrong."

"How can I be wrong?" Izuku asks. "This is all new to me. I'm used to reacting or thinking ahead. Not trying to predict the future."

"Your Sports Festival matches show otherwise." Nighteye sinks a little lower in his stance. Izuku gets the impression that he's coiling up to explode. "Try again."

"I dunno," Izuku says, sighing. "You're gonna jump or move forward really fast?"

"Why?"

"You're tense but that's because you're ready to move. One of your legs is back, but you push off with the one closest to your center of mass." Izuku points to Nighteye's left knee. "Your knee wouldn't be over your toe if you were going back. You'd push hard with your left and bring your right forward for a follow-up step."

"Good. Now do that hundreds of times in training until you do it without thinking."

"That was it?" Izuku asks, a little shocked.

Nighteye looks at him with a weird expression. If the man wasn't permanently stuck in stoicism, he'd almost call it bemused. "What were you expecting? There's no trick to it. I don't read my opponent's mind through their eyes. I have simply gotten very good at reading body language, helped along by my Quirk. That combined with being able to pick up on how people think and act as an individual makes me an expert on reading them in combat."

"... I could probably learn that."

"Yes. It will take time and hundreds of hours of effort," Nighteye says, "but it's entirely possible. You already do a simplified version of it, reacting to body language in your matches though not at the level of nuance that I do. But it can be learned. Mirio did, and he's UA's top student at the moment."

Izuku looks back over to the door where Togata left a few minutes ago. "I watched the Sports Festival last year. I didn't even see him. If I did, I don't remember anything significant."

"Indeed. His training only started after the festival. He won it this year."

Izuku shakes his head, almost in disbelief. "How many hours did he have to put in…"

"Eight a day, on top of school."

"Holy sh*t."

"Quite." Nighteye pushes his glasses up and crouches again. "Now, what wi—"

"Sir!" Izuku's head snaps over to the door again, just in time to watch Centipeder sprint through. "Stain's make a kill in Hosu! This time he left witness, some hero student!"

Nighteye very calmly stands up straight. "Midoriya, go spar with Yaoyorozu. It's likely that you will be left with her and Knuckleduster tomorrow. The agency will be busy."

"With what?"

Nighteye takes a step forward, brushing past Izuku's shoulder as he looks down at the boy. They make eye contact for just the barest moment. As the man pushes up his glasses again, his eyes begin to change, spiraling as purple overtakes yellow. "Fighting the Hero Killer Stain."

Notes:

I had a snow day and spent the first few hours of it finishing this up. I kinda wanted to see if I could get two out in one day but I got called into work and I'm not about to pass up extra money. Next one will have Momo and Izuku moment and the start of a patrol and/or a fight. Thanks for reading

https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Chapter 34

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"You're quiet."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"No." Yaoyorozu raises her mug of tea to her lips and takes a sip. She sets it back down on the coffee table, leaving her hands on the mug for some warmth. "It's just unexpected. From what I heard at school, you're…"

"An ass?"

"Abrasive," Yaoyorozu corrects. "And even if I knew you weren't always so aggressive from our talks after the festival, I figured that you were still quite loud."

"I guess I can be," Izuku admits. "But it gets exhausting, you know? Being bold like that, it doesn't feel right if I don't have a moment to recharge."

"Interesting. I suppose I do something similar as well," she admits. "In class I always act like I have a plan or an idea. That I'm sure of myself. But I'm not like that. I have confidence, but not in an overabundance."

"Yeah, I understand that, too." Izuku kicks his feet up on the coffee table and fiddles with the strings of his hoodie. The red, white, and blue tricolor of France decorates his chest, making him feel at home even though he's never set foot outside of his country. "You just need to rest, right? It's like everything else in the world. One thing breaks you down, it's opposite helps you recover and grow. Like lifting weights and sleeping."

"You're far more well spoken than I thought," Yaoyorozu observes. Izuku raises his brow.

"That's a backhanded compliment if I ever heard one."

"No!" Yaoyorozu exclaims. She flushes a little bit and quickly calms herself. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend, it's just that you often speak so… so… like yourself that I didn't consciously realize how intelligent you can be."

"I'm going to take that as a compliment," Izuku says slowly, "because I think it's best for both of us."

"Thank you."

They fall silent for a moment, listening to the music that flows out of the agency's kitchen as Centipeder works at making dinner for everyone present. Izuku can hear Bubble Girl and Togata chat away down the flight of stairs a few meters behind him. Up the stairs the office occupied by Nighteye and Knuckleduster sits in absolute silence.

"Has the news reported on the incident in Hosu yet?" Yaoyorozu asks. Izuku shrugs.

"If they did, I didn't catch it. Too busy showering. Centipeder?" he calls, "does the public know?"

"Vague details," they respond. "A death, and injury, and the mobilization of more pros is all they've been fed. Someone's bound to leak the info, though. Actually, turn on the news, would you? Sir probably knows everything already, but we'll all be in the dark till tomorrow morning if we don't try and keep up with the news."

Izuku flips on the TV and half watches it, his attention split between the screen and his own thoughts. "How much training do you really have?"

His eyes flick back over to Yaoyorozu, who's looking at him with reserved curiosity. "Close to a year, I guess. Why?"

The girl mulls it over for a moment. "You're good for having that little training," she settles on, though her face tells that there's much more to her thoughts. "But you're still… rough."

Izuku nods. "Yeah. I've got a few things to work on."

"You seem like you have talent, though." Izuku snorts at the idea.

"I've got talent for doodling in my notebook and reading up on Quirks. That's about it, really. Anything else is work and good mentoring."

Yaoyorozu shakes her head. "No. You have some good instincts that you can't just get after less than a year of work. And when you picked up that staff in the tournament your form was more or less correct. I wonder how good you'd be with that and your knife if you worked on them."

Izuku blinks. "How do you know about the knife?"

"Oh, Knuckleduster told me about how you, ah…" she trails off.

"Made like I was going to cut his throat open?"

"Yes, that. He made a rather… vulgar comment about how sneaky you were about drawing it on him." Yaoyorozu reaches for her mug and takes a sip of tea. "A skill like that would be useful."

"I can't just go around stabbing people," Izuku says dryly.

"Well, no, but if you're ever in trouble it could be of amazing use." Yaoyorozu looks at the TV for a moment. "But it's not for frequent use."

"Yeah."

"I…" Yaoyorozu looks at him and then goes back to the TV. "The staff is a much better option, I think. You have smoke bombs and stuff, but for normal combat you've only got your fists and feet."

"Don't forget the steel toe boots."

Her expression sours. "Those could hurt someone severely. And it's not like a staff couldn't," she quickly adds. "But if you're good with it, then you can take down villains efficiently without sending them to the ICU."

"It would be another thing I'd have to devote my time to learning." Izuku slips his hands into his pockets and fiddles with his keyring and wallet. "I have to keep advancing in unarmed combat, and learning Nighteye's techniques is invaluable. It's not so much that the staff isn't useful as it is me not having enough time."

"You can work on it for an hour or less a day." Yaoyorozu sets down her tea and folds her hands in her lap. "A little is better than none, and it'll stack up over time. I suggest that you give it a try."

"It couldn't hurt," Izuku relents. "Tonight? There's nothing for us to do now that the real pros are on the case."

"Sure. After dinner."

"I wouldn't stay up too late." The two students look over to the set of stairs to see Nighteye climbing up. "Mirio, Bubble Girl, and I will be going to Hosu tomorrow. You two and Centipeder will remain, and he'll take you on patrol."

"What about Knuckleduster?"

"He'll do as he pleases. But you two will be working hard and expected to be on your best behavior." Nighteye gives them both a cursory look, though his gaze lingers on Yaoyorozu for just a moment. Izuku blinks and it's as though it never happened. Nighteye walks back down the stairs and disappears. Izuku sits and waits.

Dinner comes and goes uneventfully. After helping with the cleaning, Izuku and Yaoyorozu excuse themselves. She hands him a staff she pulls from her navel and tells him to meet her on the roof. Izuku promptly fools around with the thing, feeling it in his hands and trying to use it to pole vault. It flexes and bends but doesn't break or dent. He wonders idley what it's made of.

"You're holding it more or less correct," Yaoyorozu says as she emerges from the roof access door. Izuku stills and looks down at the weapon. "Your hands should be the same distance from the center of mass. There's technically a correct distance to get better leverage from your shoulders, but don't worry about it now."

"Alright." Izuku shifts on his feet a little. "Is it sort of similar to boxing?"

"You stance is, yes." Yaoyorozu walks forward, creating a staff of her own. Hers is a little longer to match her taller frame, and she takes up a staggered stance. "Dominant hand goes on the bottom, and the tip of the staff that's up should be level with your eyes to start." Izuku copies her. It feels right and natural, though he doesn't feel perfectly at home leading with his left arm.

"You know how to fight," she continues. "Let's just see how you fair. Ready?"

"Sure."

She waits for him. Unlike Nighteye or Knuckleduster or Miruko or any of his friends, she gives him pause. Then, her back food twists and she charges. Izuku chops his feet and place and meets her half way, thrusting his staff forward at her gut. Yaoyorozu spins, twisting all the way around to swing at his back. Izuku dives. Rolling, he stands and blocks a swing. The force she puts behind it is surprising, but the more they fight, the more it makes sense.

She's ripped. To the point where Izuku is a little jealous. Her legs are particularly built, which explains how she can generate so much force. It's hard to see on the surface, since there's a not insignificant amount of body fat on her, but the muscle peaks out. Her shoulders give it all away, just from how the flex as she fights. It's impressive, but nothing Izuku can't compete with.

He ducks under a swipe and thrusts the tip of the staff at her ankle. It connects and she nearly falls. She catches herself with one arm while the other wildly swings at him. He's forced away, but keeps the pressure up by coming at another angle. She blocks or dodges every one of his prodding attacks, hobbling a little on her ankle. Eventually, she grows used to the pain, and moves without limping. Izuku stops, and a lull happens in the fight.

They circle for a while, sizing each other up. He wonders if she expects him to make the first move. Part of him wants to. It'll put the fight in his control. The other part wants to wait. He's supposed to be learning, and seeing how she takes the offensive would be beneficial.

"The staff has two ends," she says suddenly. "The top and bottom are the same. You use it like a spear. Don't. It's great when your up close, you can keep attacking by alternating what edge you use."

"Care to show me?"

She does. It's clear that Yaoyorozu is in teaching mode as she comes at him, intentionally moving slower and more deliberately than what Izuku has gathered to be her normal style. Every set of attacks is perfectly timed and executed, though none of it is done to completely beat him down. Izuku can fight back enough to learn. Soon he picks up on a few tricks.

By the end of it all, they're both tired and sweaty. Their staffs lay off to the side, forgotten as they drink from their water bottles. "How long have you been training?"

"In general or with what I've just shown you?"

"Doesn't matter."

Yaoyorozu ponders for a moment. "Well, when I got my Quirk I think."

"Really?" Izuku asks, a little appalled. "That's just…"

"It'd be gross," she agrees, "if I'd been doing combat training. But my power works off memorization. I can't create what I don't know on a molecular level. Since I learned that, I've been working on memorizing compounds and the makeup of substances. I've only been working on actual combat for about three years."

"Two more than I have," Izuku remarks. There's a short pause. "Where does the stuff come from?"

"I beg your pardon?"

"Matter can't come from nothing. How do you make things?"

"Ah." She flushes a little bit. "It comes from my lipids. It's why I'm not as lean as you—I told you this after the festival, didn't I?"

"Really?" Izuku thinks back. "I… yeah. So much has happened since then, I sort of forgot."

"Hm. Well, I understand that. And it's not exactly a fact that sticks in your head." Izuku disagrees, but he holds his tongue on that topic.

"Is it hard staying at the best body fat percentage?"

Yaoyorozu blinks. "That's an odd question to ask, but yes. It is. I have to eat in a significant calorie surplus to regain the weight I lose in training. It's… painful on occasion."

"I can't imagine." Izuku shakes his head in disbelief. "I remember when I first started hitting the weights. I had to eat so much, and even then I barely put on any muscle weight. What you must have to do is…"

"Worth it," she says with a smile. "It's annoying, getting up early to chug breakfast shakes just to have another after a workout. But I want to be the best hero I can be so I can save all the people I can. A little discomfort is worth it in my eyes."

Izuku grins into the tip of his water bottle as he takes a drink. "That I understand. Every hardship is just a test, and each one I get through makes.me stronger and better. That way I can do what I want."

"And what might that be?"

Izuku opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. He stares down at the street below. "I… I want to help people," he decides. "Otherwise I wouldn't be at UA. But I… I want things for myself, too, you know? I want to be great, but I want to earn it."

Yaoyorozu nods. "That's what almost everyone wants, I think. Everyone in the hero business anyways. It's a little foolish to ignore how being a hero goes both ways. You save people and earn a reward. That's how it's been for ages. Though the way I put it seems selfish…"

"Yeah." Izuku looks over at her for a moment. "I don't know. How to explain it, I mean. Like, you get told growing up that heroes are selfless people who do it expecting no reward. I'd happily save people for nothing, but if I have to do it for a career…"

"You have to eat."

"Yes, that."

They sit there for a while longer, watching the city lights flash. The time when they should have gone to bed comes and goes unnoticed and uncared for. Eventually, he looks over at her and nudges her arm with his.

"Want a few wrestling lessons?"

"I'd be very grateful for them."

Notes:

f*ck me I have got to stop saying what's happening in the upcoming chapters. I've said stain is coming like five times now? It feels that way. I just find more and different things to write about and what I do write doesn't turn out how I thought it would in my head. Whatever.

I've been busy but happy. Hobbies like this fall to the side when my irl friends drag me out to do dumb sh*t highschool boys do. Apparently burnouts are really fun to do in an empty parking lot.

Hope you enjoyed, join the discord
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Chapter 35

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Up, up! Both of you, get up! We're already behind for your first patrol!"

Izuku nearly curses Centipeder as they bang furiously on the doors to his and Yaoyorozu's rooms. They brought it on themselves, really. Izuku remembers looking at the clock in the nightstand before bed and shuddering when it showed past midnight. With patrol starting at six. Still, he kicks the covers off without much complaint, even if there'd be sleep in his eyes all day.

"I'm up!" he hollers through the door, giving it a knock for good measure. Centipeder lets up with one last warning to get dressed as quickly as possible.

Izuku mumbles to himself as he slips into his hero costume, promising never to stay up late again. It's a lie, but it helps the sleep fall away from his mind. It doesn't take long before Izuku finds himself dressed and in the kitchen. Yaoyorozu beats him there, however, and kindly tosses him a protein bar and an apple before rushing out the door.

"Centipeder is already walking out the door! We'd best hurry."

Izuku doesn't even waste time with a response. He practically sprints out the door behind his fellow intern while taking a massive bite out the apple. The two of them reach the sidewalk outside the agency just in time to see Centipeder hit the button for a crosswalk, which in turn causes them to hurry even faster.

"My apologies for not waking you two up," the pro hero says as the two come to a quick halt. "I was distracted by a text I received from Sir."

"What was it?" Izuku asks as the light on the other side of the street flashes green.

"Just that his investigation was going the exact opposite of the way he wanted it to." The three begin to cross, with Centipeder gazing around the streets in a smooth, methodical manner. It's done almost offhandedly, as though they've done every day they've been alive.

"I hope that no one's been hurt," Yaoyorozu says, copying her mentor in looking around.

"Everyone is fine, bar the pros who have already been targeted," Centipeder assures. "It's just that the trail has gone cold, much quicker than usual."

"The Hero Killer has already moved on?"

"Hero Killer!?" Izuku freezes as his foot hits the curb of the street. A kid—though he can't be much younger than him—has dropped his phone in shock. "I thought—"

"There's nothing to be afraid about," Centipeder steps in. "My charge is only being overly cautious. The Hero Killer is being hunted in Hosu city, and will be brought to justice soon. Forgive the boy," they add, "he's new and has yet to understand how to choose his words."

The younger boy looks at Izuku, who offers him a tense smile. Gears turn in the boy's mind as he processes the details of Izuku's green curls and freckles. "Hey, is that—"

"Move along now," Centipeder orders, shifting tone to something more demanding. "I'm sure we're all very busy."

The kid hurries off with a muffled yes, sir, and Centipeder calmly begins to walk down the sidewalk. "My bad," Izuku says, "I should've known—"

"It's fine, believe me." Centipeder shoots a glance over their shoulder. "You are a student, you're here to learn. I'm not here to get mad when you don't know something I think you should; I'm here to teach you and help you on your journey of being a hero. Same for you, Yaoyorozu."

"Thanks, but—"

"But nothing. You made a mistake, I corrected it, and now you've both learned something, yes?" Centipeder smiles—or does the closest thing they can with their mandibles. "That's what we're here for. Any questions?"

"What really is happening with… with that case?" Izuku blurts before he can think of an actual question. "I mean—"

"The target is being more cautious than usual," Centipeder says simply. "Covering his tracks, hiding, not making any appearances anywhere. The usual. Sir will get on it soon, however. No one can hide forever, especially when someone can see your next move."

"So there's a lull in the investigation?" Yaoyorozu asks. "Does that happen often?"

"When the target knows that we're on to them, yes. Or, in this case, when it's so high-profile that not hiding for a while is just plain stupid."

"Do you think he's moved on from H—from that city?" Izuku asks.

Centipeder considers the question for a moment. "Perhaps. It's a wise decision, if I'm being honest. He's made his case and moved on a few other times in other cities, so it makes sense that he would run out of his current area. But it feels too soon based on his previous behavior. I know that Sir wants to trap him in his next attack there if he can."

"But he knows he's being hunted," Yaoyorozu points out.

"Indeed. That's why we—or rather the pros—must be careful."

"They won't get him anytime soon, will they?" Izuku wonders aloud.

"Soon is relative. Not within the week, if I had to guess. Especially if he moves on." Centipeder turns a corner and stops. "But that's enough talk of him for now. What are we here to do?"

Izuku looks around at the street to gather a guess, but Yaoyorozu answers first. "Protect the civilians of the city?"

"Not a bad answer. Midoriya?"

Izuku looks up at Centipeder and then back at the people walking around the city street. "To get experience with being a hero among a large group of people."

"Better," Centipeder says. "You two probably won't be doing anything drastic today. Of course, should the lives of you or any other civilian be in any immediate peril and I am not present, you have my permission to act to save a life. However, as long as we're together you will be staying back and watching any form of villain activity."

"I understand," Yaoyorozu says.

"I guess we are just kids."

"Correct, Midoriya. I respect your abilities, separate and combined, but your experience is lacking." Centipeder sets off again, waving to a few people that seem to know them. "Your first real villain fights may come at the end of the week, probably with Sir so he can make sure nothing goes terribly wrong. In the meantime, I'm here to make sure you understand the basics of being in the field and to break down what's happening in a villain incident."

"That'll be interesting at least," Izuku says. Centipeder picks up on his disappointment.

"You'll get your chance, don't worry. Nighteye just doesn't want to take any risk. Let's focus on getting through today first—hopefully you'll pick up on a few new things."

Izuku can't help but let his mind wander as they patrol. No matter how much he focuses on his surroundings, the boredom and desire to do more gradually creep in. Centipeder and Yaoyorozu make for good company, and he does pick up on a few new things, but he wants to fight. He wants to try his skills out on someone that's not a teacher or another hero student. He's watched hero fights all his left, and even survived a villain attack. Surely he can be trusted, at least under supervision.

"Midoriya, look across the street and tell me what you see."

"A bunch of shops and a restaurant," Izuku says, scanning the area with a little more attention to detail. "And a group of men over at that cafe arguing over their break from work."

"Very good. Anything else?"

"The people around the men arguing are getting uncomfortable, and I think I saw one of the men raise his fist, but not to hit anyone."

"Alright. Look around the outside of the cafe and tell me what we should do."

Izuku watches for a moment, observing how people walk by the cafe just a little faster than they would normally, and how a father blocks his young son's view of the heated argument. Then he watches the men for a little longer, taking in their business suits and red faces.

"Nothing."

"Oh?" Centipeder says curiously. "Why? They're clearly a public disturbance."

"It's not our place," Izuku replies. "It… in an ideal world, we—or just you, I guess—could just walk up and ask them to calm down or to take their disagreement somewhere else. But we're not here to babysit the public. Heroes are supposed to fight villains and save lives."

"Well put," Centipeder agrees. "Yaoyorozu, what do you think?"

"I feel that someone should step in and attempt to de-escalate the situation," she argues. "It could boil over into a brawl if we let it keep going the way it is, which could hurt a few people."

"Both are valid points," Centipeder says, "but I personally lean more with Midoriya. We are heroes, not babysitters. We can't break up every small fight. We're technically not even allowed to do anything other than fight crime or help with disasters unless we're working with some form of police."

"So we're just going to walk away?"

"No. We'll stay here for a moment and watch." Centipeder leans up against the wall of a building. "If it escalates, I'll step in. If not, I'll let the owner of the establishment handle it. And then we'll move on."

They don't stay long. The owner of the cafe takes only three minutes to decide that she's tired of the men in her establishment, and swiftly kicks them to the curb. This seems to cool the group off a little, or at least stave off their anger, since all of them straighten their suits and pull out their phones to make a call. Izuku suspects that they're about to pull something shady for a moment, but he's proven wrong when black company cara pull up to retrieve them separately.

"Don't always jump to the worst possible scenario," Centipeder advises when Izuku voices his thoughts. "You often get thrown off focus when you suspect zebras instead of horses."

"What?" Izuku and Yaoyorozu ask at the same time.

"The simplest explanation is often the correct one," Centipeder corrects themself. "While those guys could be organizing a gang war over their cells, they're probably just complaining to their secretaries or trying to settle business matters. Interesting things are rare, that's why they're interesting."

Patrol sort of blurs by after that, with a lunch break and two quick arrests being the only things to take the mind off of the monotony. Izuku supposes that it's what pros experience most of the time. There are a lot of villain attacks, sure, but in the middle of the work day, with fewer civilians on the street and with heroes more alert, villains seem to shy away from doing anything drastic. Then, as though the universe can read his mind, an explosion goes off three blocks from them right as the sun starts to set.

"In here!" Centipeder orders, forcing both students into a side street and hundreds of people begin to scream and run from the initial blast. "We need to think!"

Backs to a brick all and breathing heavily, the three of them observe the tsunami of people as they trample each other to get away or to watch the hero fight that's bound to pop up. In the distance, another blast detonates, followed by a scream of strain and the sound of metal on metal.

"That sounds big," Yaoyorozu says.

"Very." Centipeder's voice is short and curt. "Figures you two would only see the boring extreme and the deadly extreme on day one." They gaze out at the crowd of people for a moment before looking at their phone.

"Are there any updates yet?" Izuku asks.

"No. I'm posting one myself. Stay here." Centipeder begins to scale the building, crawling up effortlessly with their many appendages. Them come back down in less than a minute, furiously typing on their phone.

"It's some kind of villain encased in metal armor chucking fireballs around. There's already a semi organized response of pros, but they're all occupied at the moment."

"What should we do?"

"I'm going to help keep the hero watchers from dying," Centipeder says, forcing a little mirth into their tone. "Not much a bug type can do against fire, but I can keep people alive as needed. You two are going to stay here."

"We have to be able to help somehow," Izuku interjects. Centipeder clacks their mandibles in amusem*nt.

"I was hardly going to let you two sit by idle. There's an urgent care center a few blocks from here. I want you two to help the people that have been trampled and lend a hand to any medical professionals as needed. Understand?"

"Yes!"

Centipeder leaves with a nod. Izuku and Yaoyorozu move soon after, not even bothering to hesitate as they help shield people from the crowd of moving bodies. They don't move them—it would only make things worse as far as they know—but shielding people from taking more shoes to the ribs is still something.

Eventually, the crowd thins, giving way to a few ambulances and gear for a news crew. Izuku and Yaoyorozu quickly give the rundown of their situation to a police officer before being dismissed.

"Do you think Centipeder will be alright?"

Izuku pauses, casting a glance over his shoulder. They've begun to walk away from the sounds of the fighting, but he can still occasionally feel the vibrations of the combat through his boots. "Yeah. They… they're good. They've got to be to work with Nighteye—you've seen Togata."

"I suppose…" Yaoyorozu crosses her arms as they pause to talk at an intersection. "I just think that it might be easy to get caught off guard in a battle like that."

"They're a pro, though," Izuku says. "Have you ever sparred with one?"

Yaoyorozu shakes her head. "I've only fought with classmates and my martial arts instructors. I've never had the opportunity to train against a professional hero. Other than Nighteye yesterday, of course. But that was hardly enough to understand what you're getting at."

"Well, I have, and a lot more than you have," Izuku says. "Pros—the good ones—are just on a completely different level. They pick up on tiny things you don't even think to notice and they react before you even know what they're reacting to. Centipeder will be fine. There's a reason we're not allowed over there, even if I want to check it out and try to help."

"But Centipeder can hold their own, I understand." Yaoyorozu relaxes a little, though her eyes are still hard and focused as the fighting rages on. "I feel like we could be doing more to help, however."

"Yeah." Izuku sighs. "Maybe we can walk over and watch? It would be better than staying here and waiting."

"I'd rather not disobey our orders," Yaoyorozu says carefully. "Perhaps we can pitch in more with the police instead? Surely they can use a few more hands."

Izuku casts a glance at the smoke rising from the fight. It makes the sky hazy in the setting sun, tempting him even more. "We can start with that," he relents.

They begin to walk back over to the group of police officers, who greet them kindly. Yaoyorozu offers their help, but it's quickly declined.

"You're too young," an older officer says. "No licences and I don't know you at all. I appreciate it, though, and I'll put in a good word to Nighteye for you."

"Are you sure?" Izuku asks. "Maybe we can just block off a street or something."

The officer looks him over for a moment. "Kid—"

"Help!"

The scream cuts through the air, distracting from the sounds of the slowly ending battle. Whoever it is repeats themself. The terror and pain only gets worse each time the screaming is heard, something that everyone understands, even as it slowly quiets.

"Stay here!" The officers all run off, some grabbing extra weapons or ammunition as they do. Izuku and Yaoyorozu share a glance.

"I'm not—"

"I wasn't either."

They run together. It's easy to catch up to the officers, who all move together with their heavy equipment. They lead the two teens to a small, narrow alley between an animal shelter and a sketchy looking restaurant. Shuffling comes from the darkness, the sun at just the right angle to completely fail to shine any light down on the brick and stone. There's no screaming anymore.

"I told you to stay back," the head officer says, drawing his handgun as Izuku and Yaoyorozu approach. He seems more peeved and stressed than mad as he examines the entrance to the alley.

"We'll go to get more help if things go south," Yaoyorozu assures. "We won't fi—"

"He—!"

The cry is silenced by a gut churning crunch. It's followed by the flick of a blade being drawn back out of flesh. "Any and all help is already occupied," the officer says. "Stay back and don't get in the way. The rest of you, form up! You know what to do!"

The officers, totalling about six or so, quickly arrange themselves. The biggest are at the front and back, forming three ranks of two. The only officer with a shotgun is in the middle, looking blankly at the alley as she clenches it. Izuku forces himself to look away, not wanting to think about what's going through her mind.

"There's someone dying in there," an officer says. "Someone should get a medic or something."

"We sent the last ambulance away two minutes ago," the head officer says. "It'll be too long befo they're back."

"I can make bandages and a stretcher!" Yaoyorozu yells. Izuku elbows her in the ribs and points at the alley, ordering her to keep quiet. It draws the attention of the head officer, who orders her to explain.

"My Quirk allows me to create nonliving things out of my own body mass," she explains quietly. "I can get a stretcher, bandages, and anything else we'd need ready right now."

"Do it. I give you my full permission as an officer of the law."

"A stretcher still needs two people to work. We can't spare—"

"The kids will hold back with the stretcher until we can bandage the victim up for them to take," the head officer orders. "Their safety is top priority so they will not rush in recklessly. Understand?"

"Yes."

Izuku mumbles his agreement quietly as the officer nods and heads off into the darkeness with his men. The scars he got from the USJ tingle a little, his bones feeling stiff and tired. His stomach floats around unsteadily, and the sweet taste of copper invades his mouth.

"Are you ready?"

Izuku looks at Yaoyorozu, who carefully tests the stretcher she's just made. He nods. "Yeah. I'm good to go."

"I think—"

"You two, come get him, now!"

Yaoyorozu and Izuku grab the stretcher and sprint into the alley, nearly tripping over a small pipe in the process. They regain their footing and come to a sudden stop by the officers. "Quickly!" one hisses. "We bandaged up the worst of it but he's lost a lot of blood. Get him to safety!"

They don't even wait for the officer to stop speaking. Izuku and Yaoyorozu lift the man—a hero in a bright orange costume—onto the stretcher. Yaoyorozu straps him in while Izuku tries not to think about how wet and warm his hands feel from lifting the man.

"Ready."

They begin to hurry out, with Yaoyorozu holding her phone against her cheek with her shoulder as she tries to get more help to come through the emergency line. Then, a shadow appears from overhead, falling from the roof onto Yaoyorozu and the stretcher. She cries out in pain as her phone clatters against the concrete, and Izuku scampers away. But the force from whatever fell forces him back off balance, and the dying hero falls on top of him.

"Filth, disgusting wastes of flesh and bone." The sound of blade against concrete sends shivers down Izuku's spine. Heavy boots shuffle along the ground, slick with blood and grim. Ragged, choppy breathing and atrocious breath bombard his senses as Izuku pushes the body off him as carefully as possible. "False heroes shall die by my hand!"

Izuku's eyes are wide with fear as a blade falls down. A flash of steel and the manic gleem of red eyes force him to come to terms with his fate. Offed by the Hero Killer along with a hero he doesn't know in the slightest. Then, right when the blade is about to cut into his throat, Stain moves. He charges the policemen. And hail of gunfire responds.

Notes:

I've been busy but here it is. The Stain encounter. I think it'll be fun to write when I find the time to get to it. Gotta love having a busy personal life. Hope you enjoyed.

Discord
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Chapter 36

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Watching Stain reminds Izuku of that time he caught an old action movie on TV. The police are relentless in their shooting, almost assuredly because Izuku, Yaoyorozu, and the hero are flattened against the pavement. But even from his poor angle, Izuku can see Stain move. There's a certain grace to it. The man ducks, rolls, and dives, kicking off walls and hiding behind what little cover there is in the alley. He's never hit. He never tries to get to the police after his initial charge, either.

Izuku realizes why as soon as half the police start to reload. The other half stand, frozen, as Stain cautiously walks back over to Izuku and the others. "No," he hears Yaoyorozu whimper. Izuku takes a deep breath and reaches out to touch her shoulder. It's warm in the lifeless cold of the alley.

"Outplayed," Stain mutters. He flicks his sword to Izuku's neck, drawing just a speck of blood. "Perhaps I should kill the lot of you, if only for incompetence." By now the police have finished reloading but they can hardly do anything. By the time they pulled their triggers, Izuku would have six inches of rusty steel in his neck, and no one likes the odds of survival in that scenario.

"Drop the sword and kneel!" one of the cops yells. "No one here has to die."

Stain regards the police with uncaring disdain. "Useless without heroes, each and every one of you. Slaves to the corrupt system, dependant on those fakes."

"Drop the sword," the police captain orders. "Those are children. Not that it's stopped you before."

"Oh really?" Stain laughs. Izuku's grip on Yaoyorozu tightens. "That hero boy was already lost. You should've seen the hate in his eyes, the desire to kill a man. Such a thing in a so-called hero is disgusting."

"You crippled—"

"I took out a fake who was unworthy!" Stain bellows. "All heroes are the same, in it for themselves, for the glory, for the fame, for the money. Only one rises above that, and only he may bring me to custody. All Might, one of the world's only true heroes."

"Oh my god." Izuku swallows, trying to smother the small bout of laughter that pokes through his fear. Because even if there's a sword about to rip through his throat, the whole situation is just absurd. "This cannot be real."

"This is the real world, child," Stain says coldly. "Heroes are after their own desires rather than doing it for the good of the people. Society is built on a lie, false promises to the everyman that they are what's important." The villain shifts a little, keeping the blade pressed to Izuku's neck while exposing just a little more of his back to the police. Stains eyes drift over to Yaoyorozu. Izuku pulls her just a little closer on instinct.

"It's a tough reality, that damn Ingenium boy learned that the hard way. Heroes who fight for their own gain should be harshly beat down. I'm only the vessel of this great change, and perhaps one day the world's heroes will be more like the greatest one of all."

Izuku manages to hold his tongue. It's easy in the beginning, when the fear is ripe and palpable enough to paralyze him. But slowly he becomes less and less afraid, his heart rate slowing, and his emotions shifting to something else entirely. "You're insane…"

Stain laughs. "Those still trapped in the great ruse of this country would call me mad, but you'll learn better. You're still young."

Izuku forces himself to breathe. His mind races, and his mouth wants to scream and go off, but he doesn't let it happen. He could walk out of this alive. They all could. He just needs to think. "Don't you see what you're doing?" he asks. "You… you think your message will spread peacefully?"

"Peace isn't an option anymore. Nothing other than something horrific and impossible to ignore will inspire change."

"So you know this is wrong!"

"Horrific," Stain corrects. "The death penalty is horrific and yet most are accepting of killing the most depraved criminals."

"They get trials!" Izuku says, trying and failing to hide how appalled he is. Yaoyorozu tugs on his costume in an attempt to get him to calm down. He ignores her. "They're judged in court! With evidence and lawyers! What you're doing is wrong on so many levels. You're killing senselessly, for what? All you're doing is taking heroes off the street that can help and terrorizing the public. You're not a revolutionary, you're a f*cking serial killer!"

Stain's blade whips through the air, drawing a small cut on Izuku's chin. Snakelike, the man's tongue slips through his lips, and Izuku watches in disgust as the villain licks the blood off the blade without it ever leaving his face. "You're interesting."

The man squats down. He gets close, eyes scrutinizing Izuku. Yaoyorozu and the dying hero shift away in fear. Izuku can't blame them. The way Stain looks at him, with eyes so crazed yet intelligent makes his skin crawl. In fact, Izuku tries to move. But he can't. He's paralized.

"I heard about you. Everyone did. He even told me..." Stain looks back at the police, who are still holding their positions, unable to do anything without dire consequence. "The Quirkless brat at UA. I thought about killing you, but not for long. And here you've proven what I heard to be right."

"f*ck off," Izuku says. A token resistance. Stain moves. Quick as lighting, the man hauls Izuku up, ripping him from Yaoyorozu's grip. Stain takes a few large steps back, putting distance between him and Izuku and the dying hero. Yaoyorozu makes an attempt to grab him back, but her hand is swatted away with the flag of Stain's blade. Izuku is trapped, helped up with a blade to his neck. The only comfort he has is the clicking of the officers' guns. At least they're more of a threat now.

"I have a deal," Stain calls.

"We don't negotiate with villains," the head officer replies. The expression on his face gives Izuku the impression that he's thinking about trying to put a bullet in Stain's head with his pistol, even from how far apart they are.

"I'll leave you the other two for the boy," Stain says, undeterred. Izuku swears under his breath, because of course it would have to be him.

"No deal. Surrender and you'll live. Continue to resist and we cannot promise you your life."

Izuku watches as the hero beside Yaoyorozu continues to bleed out. It's as though both sides are completely ignoring what's happening outside the stand off. More heroes are coming, so Stain can't sit in the alley doing nothing. The hero will die, so the police can't afford to stall. And yet everything is still. No one moves.

He wants to scream, to tell the officers to take a shot, or to try and elbow Stain through his paralysis. But he can't. He can move his mouth yes, but the words won't come. Izuku forces himself to breathe. He shoves down the fear, hoping to come up with some way out of this. Then he sees a light.

"Don't!" Izuku yells, voice breaking. Yaoyorozu's attention snaps from Stain. He can see the makings of some kind of weapon jutting from her gut; the handle of a knife or the grip of a tranquilizer gun. "Help him," he orders. "I'll be fine."

Stain laughs, fully knowing that Izuku is lying. "You're not bad for a mouthy brat," he says, much too close to Izuku's ear for comfort. The hot, rancid breath scrapes against his neck, and even paralized, his hair stands on end. He seems to consider something for a moment. "I'll turn myself in."

"Really?"

"No." With a flick, a knife is thrown. Izuku can't tell from where. It spins through the air, almost in slow motion as it flies towards Yaoyorozu. He screams a warning but it comes much too late. It sticks in her abdomen, right between her ribs.

The ceasefire breaks. Stain dashes for a fire escape with Izuku in tow as a hail of gunfire chases after them. Izuku forces his eyes to stay open, his gaze glued to Yaoyorozu and the hero as Stain dodges a series of bullets. A pair of policemen rush to their sides, using their jackets and whatever else they have as bandages. Yaoyorozu tries to stand. An officer gently pulls her down as Stain hurls himself sharply over the edge of a building with a pained grunt.

Izuku lands on the roof feeling nothing but a full throb all over. Stain still holds him, though his grip has loosened. The man drops him completely with a curse. Izuku watches as he uses his bandana as a bandage around his right arm. They shot him, Izuku realizes. And then, when a small pool of red catches his eye, he realizes that the cops shot him too.

"f*ck me."

Stair whirls to stare at him, half angry and half pleased. He glances over the edge of the roof, jumping back to avoid another bullet before snatching Izuku up again and hopping across. All Izuku can do is scream in a vain attempt to keep the police on their trail. Stain gags him with a bloody rag and ducks into another seedy back alley. He unceremoniously dumps Izuku before tending to his own wound.

"I'm going to die," Izuku says, "there's a bullet in my leg and a murderer a meter away. I'll be the first death from gun related injuries in years. Of f*cking course." He laughs a little, the sight of his bleeding leg enough to poke at the last remnants of his composure.

"You'll die a martyr," Stain says, finishing up the knot of a better bandage on his arm. He rips away more of his clothes and fashions a few more that he ties to Izuku. "That is if you die at all."

Izuku tries to move his leg. He still can't. "Like you can do anything. Congrats, you killed another hero student."

"I didn't kill the other one," Stain says, putting pressure on Izuku's leg. His hands become even more bloodstained as they cup Izuku's lower thigh. "I only gave him what was coming to him."

Izuku tastes bile. "You're evil."

"Is that so?" Stain looks at Izuku, really looks at him. There's an intelligence in his eyes, a dangerous glint of something that shouldn't be in a mindless murderer. It makes Izuku wish thean would go back to his crazed rant from before. "Evil is subjective. You and the rest of society have been conditioned to see the death of a hero to be tragic, but in reality we're all much better off without those fakes."

If Izuku could, he'd swallow. He closes his eyes in attempt to ignore the sudden rush of lightheadedness. "You're so dumb. They keep villains from hurting people! Selfish motivation or not, they help! Can't you see that?"

"And who makes those villains?" Stain argues. "I've seen it up close and personal. Those who don't fit, who can't do what society wants while maintaining it in it's perfect image, are scrapped. Those fakes are part of the problem, they provide just what the public wants and they're encouraged to feed their selfish desires. They're directly responsible for those trying to stop you from achieving you're goal. For trying to change how the world treats people like you."

"I don't give a rats ass about any goal if you're out here killing people!" Izuku screams. "And f*ck the people that turn to villainy! I never did! And what do you think is worse than some f*ck who can't be a hero because they're Quirk isn't fancy enough, huh? Some kid without one!"

Stain huffs. "You're not thinking straight," he says, and Izuku hates that he's right. "You've one foot on each side of the door, boy. I was like you once, unsure. The two of us are quite sim—"

"Take that katana and shove it up your ass! I am not having that talk when I'm bleeding out in a rancid alley!"

"You're angry. So am I. I want to change the world as it is, so do you."

"Is that why you think I'm trying to be a hero?" Izuku squeezes his eyes, pain beginning to trickle through the paralysis. Half of his mind screams at him to shut up and think, to analyze and take the opportunity given to him. The other is wailing in pain. He chooses to ignore that one. "I'm not trying to be a revolutionary!"

"Lies. Look at you, doing all you can to break the barrier in the eyes of the public, all while upsetting the powers that be."

"Yeah, for myself!" Izuku opens his eyes and looks through the tears. Stain's brow is furled in confusion. Good, he's distracted. Izuku tries to twitch his fingers. They move, just the barest of a centimeter. "I don't give a damn about the others like me. They can crawl their way up from the bottom, just like I'm doing."

"You're bluffing."

"No, I'm not." Izuku takes a deep breath because he so is. His knife is in one of his boots. The taser and all his other goodies are still on his belt. Maybe he has a shot. "It's all for me, idiot. All me, me, me. Just like every damn hero there is. And you know what? That's f*cking fine. Every single hero before has done it for themselves. Sure, they've helped people. But that's the business model!"

Stain's grip on his thigh tightens. Izuku grins and keeps going. "It's just a job, like being a movie star! We make the people feel safe and get showered in gifts just for strutting our stuff. It's a win win! And guess who the biggest faker of us all is?"

"No…" Stain mutters.

"Oh yeah," Izuku says, licking his lips. His hands itch to grab a weapon even as the pain starts to ebb at his consciousness. "All Might. The fact that he exists is enough to do a better job than all the B list heroes combined. And all he has to do is flash that smile of his and the money comes rolling in. He's living the dream, all because he was blessed with that perfect Quirk of his!"

"You shut your mouth you f*cking bas—"

Izuku twists. It's hell on his leg, but he hooks Stain with his arms and drives up from his heels, flipping over to lock the man in a chokehold. Izuku's shoulder is pressed into Stain's neck, though the man's arms are free. A knife comes down directly at Izuku's shoulder. He lets go of Stain's neck but grabs the hand.

"Of course you're type O!"

The grab results in a knick on Izuku's wrist, but he gets enough time to grab the knife and draw his taser. Stain attempts to tackle him, but Izuku beats him to the offensive. He slashes the man's chest and follows up with the taser. At the same time, his leg gives out, leaving him kneeling as Stain jumps back. A flash of pink flicks from Stain's mouth. Izuku raises the stollen knife.

The Hero Killer's tongue is caught on his own knife, making contact with his own blood. Stain's eyes go wide in fear. He collapses on his side, cursing all the while. Izuku breaths heavy. His mind races, though he's sluggish to process anything. His leg continues to bleed, and the cut on his wrist starts to gush blood.

He knows he shouldn't. He knows he needs to get help, to scream or to call someone. But before he can reach for his phone, Izuku's eyes get heavy. His body gives out from under him, and he collapses on the knife, utterly unconscious.

Notes:

Damn almost a month. At least it's done and out there. If Stain seems a little off the next one will explain why. You'll see. Cheers.

Discord:
https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Chapter 37

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

There's no pain. It's the first thing he notices when he stirs; the lack of burning and throbbing tied with exhaustion. He feels fresh as a daisy, ignoring the fact that parts of him feel numb. No aches from his shot leg. No needles from his slit wrist. No tearing where he fell on the knife. Izuku opens his eyes, confused at the utter lack of sensation.

He's lying in a bed, he sees. Clean and sterile white sheets and a few pieces of medical equipment give the room the feel of a hospital. But there's no windows. The walls are solid concrete. The lights overhead are just bare bulbs, and there's nothing to suggest that anyone has been in his room since he was placed there. No clipboards, no medicine, nothing but him and the beeping of the ERG.

"Hello?" he dares to say. No one responds. His heart rate picks up. Sitting up, Izuku throws off the covers. Uncomfortably he realizes that someone's changed him. A simple pair of cotton boxers are all he has on, and they do nothing to hide the bullet scar on his left leg. However, it's not as fresh as he'd expect.

The one on his face from the USJ is still a little pink, with bits of it occasionally flaring up in pain when he moves his face too much. The one on his leg is white. It looks completely healed, and so do the ones on his gut and wrist. Grizzly, yes, but old. Like he got them years ago. It tickles something in his mind. It's so wrong and off kilter. He doesn't want to look at them.

Izuku forces himself out of bed. The bare floor is cold and unwelcoming, but clean. It can't be a real hospital, he decides. There'd be people in his room, or a button to call a nurse. Which means that someone must have taken him. He doesn't care to know if it was from the alley or from the hospital after he was rescued. Both bring rather uncomfortable images of his mother and friends.

Shaking those off, Izuku pulls a clip off his finger. The ERG beeps one last time. He does the same with the small nodes on his chest. Luckily there's no IV. He peeks out the door to the room. Outside is a hallway. It's pure cement and steel, like a bunker. The air itself feels damp and heavy. Stale, too, like it hasn't seen the sun in ages.

He really doesn't want to be underground. The thought of being trapped under the earth with no one to help him makes his chest feel heavy. He's scared, that much he can't deny. In fact it's probably a good thing he's scared. It should keep him on his toes as he sneaks through wherever he is.

Izuku goes left out of the door. There's no reason for it; both directions are identical. Izuku just walks. He goes slow, making sure his bare feet make the smallest amount of noise possible. He keeps his breathing controlled too, not willing to give himself away to anyone with a particularly keen ear.

He passes by a few rooms as he goes. Every time he peaks in and finds them to be empty. Some look like cages, others like gutted bedrooms, and even more look like basic storage rooms. One, however, looks like the room of a teenager, with a few video game posters and a musty old bed. Izuku spies a Tshirt on the ground.

He ransacks the places for clothes. They feel clean, but they carry a scent of rot to them that makes his nose hairs curl. But they fit well enough, and they'll at least keep him from being exposed during his escape. If he even manages to escape.

The next few rooms are empty. Eventually, the hallway banks to the right. Izuku takes the turn after looking around, making sure to note how the bricks in the wall look just in case the place is a confusing mess. After burning the image of a cracked cinder block into his mind Izuku keeps going. He stops at the first room and peaks in. He forces himself not to breathe.

Inside is a man sitting at a computer. He wears a heavy white lab coat and he spills out the edge of his office chair. He's faced away from the door, hunched over a keyboard as he types with two fingers. The man is completely silent, hardly even breathing. Izuku watches as his balding head bobs up and down for what feels like an eternity. He never once looks over his shoulder.

Izuku dives across the opening to the room, rolling on the ground. He hears the man stir and flattens himself against the wall. The computer chair creaks a little, and the man pauses his work. After a moment the typing resumes and Izuku lets out a small breath.

The next few steps are taken with utter focus. Izuku moves quickly and quietly to each room, peaking in as quickly as possible so he knows which are safe to duck into if the man looks outside of his office. He only allows himself to relax when he turns a corner, only to mentally curse when the next hall looks exactly like the last one.

Izuku quickly loses track of how long he's been sneaking around. The hallways twist and turn with no organization, and there's no way to count how many little rooms he passes. He comes to terms with the fact that he's probably in some kind of underground lair. But for who is completely up in the air.

Did some nutcase cult kidnap him? Did the hero commission or someone on the UA board decide he wasn't worth the trouble? He can't make up his mind, mostly because Izuku can't come up with a single theory that makes sense for more than a few seconds. If it was a cult they'd have to have been stalking him his entire internship or break into a hospital to nab him. If it was the school board or the commission he'd probably be somewhere less eerie.

Izuku doesn't know how long he wonders while his thoughts run wild, but, eventually, he takes his last turn. At the end of a rather short hall is a metal staircase leading to a heavy steel door. Carefully, Izuku walks up the stairs. He gazes at the door for a moment. He doesn't want to trust it, or anything about this place. But the rest of it is dead and empty, so maybe…

The instant his hand makes contact with the doorknob something pulls on him. He phases through the metal, screaming all the while.

"I do apologize for springing this on you." Something hits Izuku. A brick wall shocks him back into silence, though it does little to still his racing heart. He lays crumpled on a metallic floor, cupping his face. The stench of rotting meat fills his nostrils. He can taste blood mixed with bile. His eyes swim with images of war, genocide, and a million other atrocities committed by man. He can't bring himself to stand.

"I am sorry, but I felt that it was necessary. It's been a hundred years since I've come across someone as interesting as you."

Izuku stares, eyes as wide as can be. A hanged man stands before him. His suit hangs off his lopsided shoulders, and his neck bends at a brutal angle underneath his tie. A heavy metal helmet covers his face. A dozen or so pipes work in and out of it, occasionally creaking or puffing with steam. His breathing is heavy and amplified.

"Who are you?"

The man laughs, quiet and reserved. He fixes his posture. His joints snap and pop. "I suppose it's not surprising. I'm presumed dead now, and before that I was just a myth. Tell me, have you heard of the Quirk Snatcher?"

Izuku's face sours. "When I was younger."

"I thought so. I can only assume the things the other children must have said about you. You see, young Izuku—may I call you Izuku?"

"No."

"Very well. Young Midoriya, I am the Quirk Smatcher. I am real, and, well, I have quite a few options on how modern society is built." Izuku closes his eyes and counts to ten. When he opens them the man is still there.

"This is a dream. I'm lying in a hospital bed, drugged up on painkillers."

"I'm afraid not. Perhaps a demonstration is in order." The man raises a hand at the wall to his left. Something sticks out of his palm. Under his suit his muscles bulge and contort. With a grunt, a massive wave of compressed air blasts from his palm, denting the wall. Then, he floats into the air. Izuku watches, shocked as the man's limbs more than double in size without ripping his suit.

"You… you made Nomu…"

"I knew you were clever." The man laughs again. It slowly turns into a fit of coughs. He regains control before summoning a chair out of nowhere and sitting down, hands laced carefully in his lap. "Would you like a seat?"

"You're a murder."

"By definition, yes. I can hardly deny that. Tea? Or perhaps you prefer coffee?"

"You can't actually think that I'd sit and have tea with the man who tried to have me and my friends killed!"

"I do. And you will." Izuku's body moves without his consent, twisting and turning in a jerky dance as the man forces him closer. A table and chair form out of the metal of the floor, and Izuku soon finds himself sitting down, trapped. "There. That's much better."

"Why am I here?"

"You're interesting," the man says again. "I heard about you after the battle at the USJ, and then I saw your performance at the Sports Festival. After that I couldn't help myself and did a little research. You've had quite a life."

"One I want to keep living," Izuku says. "Preferably as a person and not some nut cases' science experiment."

"Is that what you think I'd do to you?" The man almost sounds amused. "Perish the thought. I am All for One, and while I do get carried away I know how to draw the line between test subject and acquaintance."

"We are not friendly."

"Not yet. We could be, if only you'd listen."

"I won't."

"Hmm. Teenagers."

Izuku tries to reply but he finds that it's impossible to move his mouth. He glares at All for One, trying to force his teeth apart. "Tomura was quite the same. Still is, though he's probably learned a thing or two in Tartarus." Izuku's eyes go wide.

"Ah, silly me! I thought you pieced it together. The dread must be getting to you. I am Tomura's master." All for One leans forward a little, voice turning up in pitch. "He was quite the student, and by that I mean a poor one. It's why I left him to rot, and it's why you're here now."

"I won't be your student!" Izuku's mouth slams shut again, his teeth nearly severing his tongue.

"As you wish." All for One doesn't seem disappointed. "However, I will force you to listen to me. Humor an old man, will you?

"You see," he begins, "I find you fascinating, but not in a vacuum. There are a billion Quirkless people alive today, millions in Japan alone. Many have dreamed as you have, and many have even made the attempt. But you're different. There's something about you that society hates in particular.

"You see, Izuku, you are a rat." All for One chuckles. "Tomura was a locust, and I thought that he was what I wanted to cultivate. An unavoidable pestilence, amorphous and untouchable as it tears through the very heart of our modern world. But he didn't work out. You, however…

"I don't have to tell you how you were treated." Izuku looks away, not wanting to give All for One the satisfaction of having his attention. "Spit on, stepped on, beaten, broken, and cast away as something worse than dung under the heel of a boot. A worthless eater. A drain on society. A rat.

"You are ugly in personality and from that scar of yours—and it's perfect. We've both seen it, they all hate you. But have you ever stopped to think about why?"

Unable to resist, Izuku shakes his head. "I thought not. No one ever does and those that do become villains. You see, I like to think of society as a kitchen. Each and every little class is a chef or cook trying to get through a rather nasty dinner rush. Everything must be squeaky clean and perfect; it's a fussy type of restaurant after all. We have standards. The product must be perfect and of the right style. Anyone who can't help make the dish to the proper parameters is fired.

"And then there's you. You are the rat hiding under the table. You are a part of the kitchen, no matter how hard they try to poison you. You eat the leftovers, you endure the beatings, and you scamper around after close. This drives the head chef up the wall, and he tries his hardest to put you down. Yet you persist.

"You fight back. You bite and claw and steal food when you can. This is your kitchen too, and you deserve a spot of your own. You deserve the warmth and consistent food just as much as the customers because you, too, are alive. You feel and thing just as they do, damn the fact that you are a rat!" His fist makes contact with the table, shaking it and Izuku. "Nothing fights harder than a cornered rat, young man, but you are going about it the wrong way!"

All for One extends a hand. Izuku stares at the massive black pit in the center of his palm. It seems to suck the life out of the air, out of his lungs. It tempts him. He can see power in it. Glory, too, with admiration and love.

"You are trying to carve out your own space. I applaud you for that. It takes guts and wits to do as you've done, and many a civil rights fighter before you would approve of your beginnings. But you neglect to see the bigger picture. This kitchen is filthy. It is vile. It sells poached animals and spits in the soup. The fact that it exists shows that whatever higher power there may be doesn't give a damn!

"You, the rat, can expose this all just by running into the dining room. So join me, and we can burn it all to the ground!"

Izuku can move. His mouth drops open. His own hand itches to take All for One's. He could have what he wants, he could be safe, he could be happy. His dreams could all come true. But what exactly were those dreams? Does he truly wish to overturn an entire nation? Does he wish to be a hero or something more? His mind bombards him with options and not one of them feels right in the moment. He needs to think.

Izuku swats the hand away before he even realizes. He looks at All for One, staring at his own reflection on the mask. He looks sure of himself, even if he doesn't feel that way.

"No."

All for One sits back, unphased. "Very well. I respect your decision. I only ask that you come visit me; my cell in Tartarus will always be open to you."

"What on Earth—"

The ground shakes and the heavens open. A blinding beam of light takes his breath and vision away. Yet nothing can cover that unmistakable voice.

"I am here!"

Notes:

I watched Ratatouille before writting this so the rat in the kitchen kinda got stuck in my brain lol. I think it sorta works for an analogy. Also All for One monologues are really fun to write even if they don't always make for the best chapter. But I think I did good, Izuku got a kick in the head to start thinking and start working on some self reflection so that's nice from a character stand point.

See you in the next one.

Discord:
https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Chapter 38

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

All Might is stunning. Not from beauty, but from power. Sunlight pours in through the hole in the sky, hitting his costume and refracting at every angle, dazzling the entire cavern. He is nearly impossible for Izuku to look at. And yet he can, because the masked villain opposite the hero sucks the life and light out of the air.

"Only three hundred meters a second. You're getting old," All for One declares. There is no glee in his voice, only firm resolution.

"Today is the day." All Might draws himself up tall, his cape fluttering in shifting air. "You're paying for everything you've done all these years, plus interest!"

All for One scoffs. "I've already paid. My kingdom broken, my reputation slandered, and my face caved in by a foolish brute. You, on the other hand—" they clash. All for One becomes a contorted mass of flesh, metal, bone, and pure energy. All Might meets him halfway with a singular punch.

The force blows Izuku back into the wall behind him and shakes the earth. More chunks of the ceiling fall dangerously close to Izuku, splitting and throwing up dust thick enough to choke him.

"Run! There are heroes raiding the compound, they'll help you! Get to safety!"

For a moment, Izuku watches in awe as All Might and All for One fight, the sheer power rolling off them stunning him and gluing his feet to the floor. It's only when a chunk of concrete lands two meters away from him that he turns tail and runs.

The sound of chaos and carnage grows more intense as Izuku sprints and vaults over debris, the clashing titans slowly flexing their muscles and testing each other for weakness. Izuku forces himself to dive back through the door he came through only just realizing that it slid open. The entire frame is intact without a single bearing of damage.

Izuku tries to ignore the implications. The enigma of All for One is far too terrifying to unpack in a single moment, even more so when Izuku has to hear him go toe to toe with the greatest hero to ever live.

The sound of his feet hitting the floor of the compound are swept away by the rumbling. Izuku weaves around corners, unsure if he should call for help. There's no time to check around corners or to think about what might lay ahead, but Izuku can't bring himself to shout. Not when he doesn't know who's coming to get him.

Eventually he turns around one too many corners and runs into a dead end. In a panicked rush, Izuku turns and retraces his steps. It is then that the ceiling opens once more, stone raining down like chunks of heavy white snow, breaking the floor and sending Izuku back into the dead end to avoid being crushed.

"Hurry! We don't know where he is and there's only so much time before this whole place gets blown to hell!"

Izuku ducks behind the rubble, making his form as small as possible as he peers through a crack in the pile. Heroes regain their bearings and organize their search just a few meters in front of him. They're all big and recognizable; Kamui Woods, Edgeshot, Mount Lady, Best Jeanist, Sir Nighteye himself, and even a few police officers ready themselves for a fight.

"Remember your jobs," Jeanist says. "Clear each and every room and treat every person you come across as a formidable opponent. We are here to save a life and to burn the remains of the League of Villains. Failure is not an option."

There are a few grim nods. Izuku watches, frozen as they begin to take off. For a moment he thinks about rushing in and calling for help, but Best Jeanist's final words ring hollow in his ears. Would they truly take him in? Would they trust him and get him to safety, or would they cuff him and drag him back to be detained? Before, Izuku would have called those thoughts ludicrous, but a knot of mistrust forms inside of him.

Nighteye might take him in. Izuku knows he can trust the man to be reasonable and level headed, but the others? He's seen them brush him aside in interviews. He's heard them call him a sad excuse for a hero student. Izuku can't bring himself to entrust himself to them, no matter how skilled they are at heroics.

He keeps his eyes trained on the heroes for a little longer, sneaking glances at the hole in the ceiling every now and then, planning his way out. The herd of heroes disperses, leaving just a handful to guard the entry point. Izuku doesn't pay attention to them. He's much too preoccupied with trying to figure out how he'll scale his way up to freedom. Then he sees a flash of bright white, and his eyes snap over to get a better look.

"Miruko," he can't help but mutter. His heart skips a beat and he nearly vaults over the rubble right then. Izuku forces himself not to, and chooses to stay hidden. The other heroes are unfamiliar. What would they do if he just ran up to them? Miruko would back him, but it could get messy, especially if they saw him first.

"You three move on ahead and catch up. I can hold this spot on my own."

The other heroes exchange looks. "Don't you want to run ahead? I can feel All Might out there having the fight of a lifetime; doesn't that interest you?"

Miruko shakes her head. "I know how to pick my battles. Any fight that All Might is struggling with is one I'll keep my distance from until I know what's what. I'll stay back and keep looking for the brat."

"Suit yourself."

Izuku watches as the heroes move down the hall to join the search. Miruko watches them leave as well, tapping her foot impatiently. "How the f*ck did you beat Stain?"

"Wha—"

She's there in a flash. Over the rubble and through the clouds of dust, Miruko appears before him. Izuku stumbles back, nearly falling on his rear. She catches him by the hand and hauls him back to his feet. "How—"

"Enhanced hearing, remember?" Her ears twitch on top of her head and Izuku mentally slaps himself for being so dumb.

"What happened?"

"I should be asking you that." Miruko sits down, back against the pile of rubble. She prods Izuku into sitting beside her. They make eye contact and Izuku can see the trace amounts of worry. His gut plummets.

"I don't know. One minute I was fighting Stain and passing out from blood loss and then I woke up somewhere down here. What's happening?"

"A raid," she says simply. "All Might put this together the instant word got out that you were missing."

"Missing?"

Miruko snorts. "Yeah, missing. The last person to see you was Stain, and." She stops, voice growing even heavier. "Well, he's dead."

"Oh."

"I'm sorry to be so blunt about it, but you know me and I know you." She gently nudges his side with her elbow. "What's most important is that you're okay. We can figure everything else out later. You left a lot of us worried, kid." Her eyes are soft, so much softer than he's ever seen her. It's aliens but not in a bad way. Izuku just wishes he could take his mind away from thoughts of what might have gone down in that alley.

"Did I…"

"No. You weren't the one to do him in." Miruko stands and Izuku follows. "Stain was found dead in an alley after a city wide sweep for you and him. His head was ripped off; nothing you could have managed unless you've been hiding a hatched in your suit."

A wave of nausea passes though Izuku's stomach. "Wh… what do you know about my kidnapper?"

"He's All Might's arch nemesis. He briefed me and a few other top pros before we really started planning. He can take and give Quirks."

Izuku looks away, shameful for something he didn't even do. "Look, it… a lot of us know why he probably took you. I can't even begin to think of what he had in store, but you're safe now. All Might is out there kicking ass and that bastard will be dead or as good as dead come next morning. No one beats All Might a second time, especially with backup."

"I…"

"You've had so much happen to you since we met. I understand—"

"He wanted to make me his apprentice!"

"What?" The word echoes through the chamber and out through the hole in the roof. Izuku's breathing becomes ragged once more, heart racing even as he tries to keep calm. "What do you mean?"

It all comes pouring out. He tells her everything, from Stain and the slow, dreadful feeling of blood loss, to All for One and the terrifying holes in the palm of his hand. Izuku can't help it. He holds nothing back. He tells her that, for a moment, he nearly took that hand. How he nearly gave in and willingly quit working towards being a hero.

Shame washes over him all the while, clammy and cold like he's just been pulled from the ocean. He can hardly look at her. His eyes stay fixed on the cracked floor as he fights back tears, hands clenched at his side in a pointless attempt to get a grip on himself. He tries to speak again, tries to explain himself. But there's nothing there. What kind of person is he, and why would a hero like her waste her time with him?

"You're okay." And suddenly there's arms wrapped around his back and his face is buried into the crook of her neck. It's stiff and awkward, but Izuku relaxes into it. Miruko holds him there for a moment, trying to find the right words to say.

"There's so much I want to tell you and so much I want you to understand, but right now we need to get you out of her. You're not a bad person. You've been through a lot and there's so much you need to think about. That'll come after you're safe and with your friends, and I promise I'll help you through it. Understand?"

Izuku nods. "Good. Now let's go." Her arms start to pull away but Izuku can't help himself. He hugs her back, trying to hold onto the warmth for just a moment longer.

"You bastard," Miruko says, her voice harsh but not hard. She hugs back, one of her hands fining a spot in his hair. "Look at what you've done. I'm all soft now. I wasn't like this before I met you."

Izuku laughs and lets the tears out. "Neither was I."

Notes:

Sorry for the length and my little bout of absence. I don't want to force a chapter to be longer then it needs to be and things are getting hectic with school starting back up. Hope you enjoyed. See ya.

Discord:
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Chapter 39

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

"Any night terrors, panic attacks, bouts of anxiety or depression, thoughts of self harm, violent urges, excessive intrusive thoughts, or mistrust of close friends and family?"

"It's been three hours since I got out of there." One of the doctors present snorts a little. She quickly hides it under a cough as the head physician fixes Izuku with a flat look.

"Any night t—"

"No. I'm telling you, I'm tired and hungry and confused. I'm ready to go home and try to recover before I start dealing with all this medical stuff."

"Unfortunately we have to do this." The detective working on Izuku's case offers a soft smile of understanding. "Your statement claims that you were kidnapped and had unknown Quirks or healing techniques used on you. Not to mention your contact with the villain known as All for One. Some of those heroes who entered his lair are throwing up right now out of fear. He's no joke."

Izuku sighs. "Can I at least be with my mom and friends?"

"Shortly. We'll transfer you to a smaller facility than this after we've run all our tests. You're in good physical shape as far as we can tell, but it's the mental side of things we're worried about."

Izuku holds his tongue, not wanting to argue when he knows full well that All for One did something to his mind, even if it was without using a Quirk. He slouches on the exam table and allows the trio of doctors to do their thing. He gets a full physical and mental health evaluation as well as samples from every part of his body. By the end of it all he wants to pitch himself out the nearest window, which, the more he thinks about it, is probably one of the reasons for the mental health evaluation.

"They've been waiting for you," the detective says as he leads Izuku down the hall of the hospital. "Politely, of course. But they are eagar." He stops just outside the door to a private lounge. "Thank you for complying, by the way. Your full statement is confidential and some of it will even be off the record. We can't just tell people he took you with hopes of becoming his…"

"Student. Apprentice. Successor. Mentee. Prince of evil."

"Yes, those." The detective forces a laugh. "On record, I praise you for holding strong in a stressful situation and offer an apology for my policemen losing you during the encounter with Stain. Off record, I'm sorry you had to face that villain one on one. It's… he's not something anyone should ever have to be in the presence of. I… know how he smells."

"Like burnt flesh and disease."

The detective nods grimly before patting Izuku in the back. "I'm Tsukauchi Naomosa. If you remember anything else he told you that you didn't tell the police out of forgetfulness or personal reasons, please contact me." He slips a card into Izuku's hand. "His case is personal to me, and I won't hold anything against you if you help me out. Off record."

Izuku swallows. "Shigaraki Tomura was his student, but he didn't like him. He let Shigaraki get arrested and it seemed like he had wanted to be done with him for a while. He said he wanted to replace me, but then why did he stick with Shigaraki for so long? And then there was the part when he seemed to know he was getting captured, and—"

"Text that number later, after you've had a moment to rest." Detective Tsukauchi takes Izuku's hand in a firm shake. "Thank you for helping. I'll make sure he stays behind bars for a long, long, time."

"But not forever."

The detective's shoulders sag. "I wish I could say forever, but with All for One it's impossible to tell. But he can no longer access his underlings or plan anything from Tartarus, so we're in the clear for the foreseeable future."

"I guess that's good."

"Hey, let me and the pros worry about that." Tsukauchi pats Izuku's shoulder and takes a step back to leave. "You focus on getting better and becoming a hero. Everything will be squared away eventually; you've got nothing to worry about."

"Thanks," Izuku mutters as the detective heads back down the hall. His hand reaches for the door handle but refuses to turn it. He squeezes it tight, the metal uncomfortably digging into his palm. Logically he knows there's nothing bad on the other side, but an ugly wave of doubt creeps up on him from behind, stirring his guts and breathing down his neck.

Izuku ignores it because it's stupid. He turns the handle and forces himself to smile. "Hey, guy—"

"Izuku!"

Far too many arms reach to take him as he's swiftly wrapped up in a hug by five other people. Izuku staggers back into the wall, crashing into it with a thump that drives some of the hair out of his lungs. "Yeah, good to see you guys too."

"Are you alright?" his mother asks.

"They told us you were being diagnosed."

"Are you staying in the hospital for a while?"

"What happened down there?"

"Uh. I'm fine." Izuku stands up straight and his friends back away. His mother keeps a hold of his arm, her grip firm but not uncomfortable. "How… How've you been?"

"Dude."

Izuku flinches. "Yeah, my bad. I'm alright, I think. Just tired."

"Have a seat," his mother says, marching hom over to the biggest, fluffiest looking chair in the room. She presses a hand to his forehead and looks into his eyes. "Did the doctors find anything wrong?"

"No. They're keeping me for observation, though. Not for long," he adds, catching the worried looks. "But that villain was… intense. He… he smelled like corpses."

"War in a Tux," Miruko says hollowly. "That's how All Might described him to us heroes. He's the closest thing this world has to a literal devil and you sat across the table from him. Are you sure you're okay?"

"I'll be fine."

"Are you sure?" Tetsutetsu asks. "Because we're here. We'll listen or whoever. Don't hesitate just because you think you'll burden us; we're your friends."

"Thanks." Izuku's throat closes up. "That means a lot," he manages to say.

"Are you hungry?" Izuku's eyes widen a little as Yaoyorozu speaks up from her spot on the couch on the far side of the room.

"You're here?"

"Yes?" she says, face turning down in a mix of worry and confusion. "You saved me. I thought we were friends? Of course I'd be here."

"Oh. I just didn't think…" he trials off, unsure.

"That seems to be a common theme with you," Tokage says.

"Hey." Izuku feels the corners of his lips turn up. "That's not funny."

"Sure it's not."

"I mean, you not thinking isn't always bad." Hagakure shifts in her seat next to Yaoyorozu. "You've got good instincts like that."

Izuku winces as he's brought back to the alley. To Stain, and what he screamed at the villain. "No, not really."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"I'm not sure."

"We can either listen or help," Yaoyorozu prods. "I… I know what he saw in you. Everyone back there did. It's gross enough that he took a liking to you, but to be kidnapped must have been even worse."

"He didn't like me for long after I started talking," Izuku says. "I think he just liked that I told you to help the other hero instead of risking it for me. Stain didn't like selfish acts."

"The public doesn't know about Stain or his crusade," Miruko says. "We all do because of Yaoyorozu, but a choice was made by the powers that be to treat him like a mindless serial killer. Otherwise his creed might spread."

"That's good, but." Izuku shakes his head. "You said they're calling him a mindless killer?"

"Yes. You can imagine what the media makes of your kidnapping, and what they'll say about you ending up with All for One."

Izuku closes his eyes. "I almost deserve it."

"Izuku—"

"No. I've made my bed and now I gotta lay in it."

"No one, especially you, deserves what they've done to do. You need to stand up an—"

"Just listen!" Izuku's voice cracks. "Please. Just let me tell you what happened." The room falls silent. "Thank you. Is there any water?"

Someone hands him a bottle and he downs it. His throat remains dry. "Stain was obsessed with All Might. He… he thought that All Might was the only true hero, in it just to help people and nothing else, and that everyone else was a fake who needed to be purged. And he thought that I might agree because of what my life's been like."

"That's stupid."

"That's what I told him." Izuku tries to take another sip from the empty bottle. It crackles in his hand on the way down, his nerves fried. "I called him an idiot and that I'd never agree with him. Then he tried to argue with me. I told him that I didn't give a damn about the system being corrupt as long as I got my dream."

"Kid."

"Yeah." Izuku looks Miruko in the eye. "It pissed him off and I managed to get him off guard. At the time I thought I was bluffing. I might of been. I want to have been lying. But for some reason I can't be sure.

"I want to be the kind of hero that's in it for others; that's what I've always wanted. I don't care if other people aren't because a hero is a hero. But I could never look someone I've saved in the eye and admit that I only saved them so I could get the glory without wanting to vomit."

The smell of caramel invades his nostrils, sickeningly sweet. His stomach flips. "I don't know if I can do it, though. I'm… I like the attention. I like it when people respect and take he seriously. I hate it when this whole country tries to drag me down but I love rubbing my success in its face. It's all so confusing. I'd don't know what I want anymore, I don't know what to think of myself, but I know I can't keep doing this."

"Are you—"

"I'm not giving up!" Izuku crushes the water bottle in his hand. "They'd villify me even more if I did, and I'd be giving them a win at the same time. And I want to save people. I just don't want to be a hypocrite."

"Okay."

"That's it? Okay?" Izuku shoots to his feet, heart beating top fast to keep still.

"Yeah. We're here, man." Tetsutetsu shrugs like it's no big deal. "You need help, but your heart's in the right place. I can't speak for everyone else, but I'll help with whatever you need. If it's just an ear that's great, and if you need an kick in the ass I'll give it to you. But for right now, I'll listen and try to help you through this."

"Ditto."

"Same."

"You've done the same for me, Izuku."

"We've only just met, but I already respect you greatly."

"I already told you back in that tunnel, kid."

"I'm your mother."

Izuku, now behind his chair, slouches over. His forehead rests on the top of the coushin, hands gripping the leather harshly. A hand comes to rest on his back.

"You alright?"

"Yeah. Just… thank you. All of you, thank you, so, so much."

"It's the least we can do. You'd do the same, after all. Because that's how love works, you doofus."

They sit in that roof for a few more hours, chatting and catching up. The uncomfortable mess of emotions never quite leaves his gut. It's stubborn, refusing to be kicked out without a good reason. But beside it sits a warm, fuzzy, welcoming weight that makes Izuku smile like an idiot. He's not alone, and, despite his mess, he's proud of one thing he's done.

He'll never regret slapping that hand away.

Notes:

I remember the day I realized how much of a hypocrite I was. It was a weird one, I think. Pretty sure I got dumped or something. But realizing the issue is like half the process of fixing the issue so it's not a bad thing.

This is winding to its end, I think. I kinda didn't plan an ending for this because I thought it would fizzle out of flop but I have ideas for a few scenes that sorta tie a bow around this thing. See ya in the next one. Cheers.

Discord:
https://discord.gg/hFPsxx9PkN

Mean Rabbit - Skeleton_of_society - 僕のヒーローアカデミア | Boku no Hero Academia (2024)

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