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Phoenix Downed

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The U.A. students chatter incessantly as the teachers herd them back onto the buses.

“I can't wait for the next exam!” Kirishima suddenly yells, causing Izuku to jump. “I'm harder than ever!”

Ashido giggles.

“Why are you so excited.” Kaminari whines. “All I can think about is finally sleeping in my own bed.”

“Everyone!” Iida yells over all the students. “If you could line up in an orderly fashion!”

It’s strange, Izuku thinks. Everyone has forgotten the sheer terror of the invasion. It's not like it never happened. The students just spent the night playing card games in the basement while the pros mopped up the mess instead of being murdered.

In this timeline they never learned fear.

“Hey,” Shouto appears at his side. He brushes his fingertips over Izuku’s hand like he wants to grab it but isn't sure if he's allowed.

Izuku has gotten used to this awkward greeting over the last few days. He catches Shouto’s fingers and doesn't let go. “Hey,”

His hand goes warm like it's been under the sun too long. “Do you…” Shouto looks away nervously. “Want to sit together on the bus?”

“Mm,” Izuku agrees and tugs him into the mass of milling students.

Shouto follows without protest. Or any words at all, really. He’s usually reserved, but lately he’s been edging into… meek.

Izuku figures he’s probably nervous. From his perspective, Izuku kind of came out of nowhere.

Izuku can wait for him to catch up.

“Why don’t you take the window?” Izuku coaxes, knowing Shouto would probably like being as far away from their noisy classmates as feasibly possible. “I just wanna nap.”

“Oh,” Shouto says, and sits where Izuku suggests.

Izuku slides into the seat after him, still holding his warm hand captive, and wiggles into his side.

Shouto squeaks and gets even warmer.

“Mm, warm.” Izuku hums in delight. “This cool?”

“Yeah,” Shouto says in a strained voice.

“Heh, that was a pun.” Izuku points out helpfully.

When he looks up, Shouto is biting his lip on a little smile. “I noticed.”

Izuku grins and lays his head down on Shouto’s shoulder. He sighs, eyes closing.

It’s comfortable, with Shouto running at about the same temperature as a hot water bottle, but he doesn’t immediately sleep.

Sleep has been hard lately.

His brain is going too fast. Instead, he runs through the invasion again, sifting through overlapping memories.

Even after the rest of the week to think, he has not revised his original assessment: Time travel sucks.

On the whole, it’s given him two things. One, a boyfriend, and two, a cripplingly intimate sense of his complete inadequacy. And the first he probably could have figured out on his own if he had ever put his mind to it.

Up against real villains, Izuku has learned he dies a lot. And worse— the people he’s trying to protect also die.

Izuku, in other words, would be pretty ineffective if this sort of thing were to happen again. And given the League of Villain’s track record… it’s going to happen again.

Izuku needs to prepare.

Izuku nearly gives up the pretense and jumps upright when Shouto brushes his fingers over his hand out of nowhere, but he manages to stay still. He does it again, gentle strokes over his skin with the pads of his fingers— he’s exploring the scars on his hand, he realizes.

Shouto must think he’s asleep.

Izuku resolves to pretend to sleep and at some point after that he falls asleep for real.


 

Someone grips his shoulder.

“Yo, Midor—”

Izuku startles awake with a roar and punches what feels like a brick wall.

Kirishima squeals and falls over between the opposite pair of bus seats, but is largely unhurt thanks to his own quick reaction time. His jaw unhardens so he can yell. “Dude! A little too macho!”

“Midoriya!” Aizawa-sensei reprimands sharply from the front of the bus.

“It’s cool!” Kirishima pops up from the floor. “That was my fault!”

Izuku winces and shakes out his hand. His knuckles are definitely going to bruise after that.

He blinks around groggily.

It’s the golden hour, and the buses have arrived back at U.A. Most of class 1-A is gathered around the baggage compartments outside, stretching and yawning.

“Are you alright?” Shouto asks him quietly.

“Yeah,” Izuku rubs at his crusty eyes. He turns to Kirishima. “Sorry for hitting you.”

“Dude,” Kirishima punches him playfully on the shoulder. “Nothing I can’t handle. Now, c’mon! Get up, it’s time to go home! And I bet Todoroki really has to pee by now.”

“I don’t.” Shouto immediately denies.

“Oh, sorry.” Izuku stumbles off the bench, still rubbing at his eyes.

“BEFORE YOU LEAVE,” Present Mic yells the moment Izuku escapes into the parking lot. “PLEASE REMEMBER TO TAKE HOME YOUR PERMISSION SLIPS!”

“What permission slips?” Izuku mutters.

“You totally missed it.” Kirishima tells him unhelpfully.

“They’re turning U.A. into a boarding school.” Shouto informs him much more helpfully.

“What!” Izuku is wide awake now.

“Yeah,” Kirishima adds. “Aizawa-sensei made the announcement before we were allowed off the bus. Y’know, while you were snoring.”

“I don’t snore!” Izuku denies while Shouto scuffs the ground with his foot.

“Uh huh,” Kirishima says, unconvinced. “Don’t worry, pretty sure your boyfriend thought it was cute.”

Izuku glances suspiciously at Shouto, but he seems enamoured with the ground. He sighs. “Fine. Anyway, I don’t think I need to stay at U.A., I actually live pretty close by.”

“Naw, man,” Kirishima shakes his head. “You don’t get it. It’s mandatory.”

“What!” His mom is not going to like that.

“They’re worried about security.” Shouto says. “Apparently, the villains that tried to attack us at camp were targeting students specifically.”

Izuku grimaces. Oh, he’s far more familiar with those villains and their designs than he’d like to admit.

“Look at this way,” Kirishima puts a hand on his shoulder and leans in for a conciliatory whisper. “Private study sessions with Todoroki whenever you want.”

Shouto coughs abruptly.

Izuku frowns. “Huh, I guess? I’m actually pretty good for grades and I like to study alone…”

Kirishima rolls his eyes. “No, I mean, we get private rooms, man.”

Izuku blinks. “I have my own room at home, too?”

Shouto coughs again.

“No parental supervision?” Kirishima tries again.

Izuku thinks about that. “Now that you mention it, that could be problematic.” He muses. “A lot of the people here are pretty immature…”

Kirishima slaps his own palm over his face. Shouto is still coughing.

“Hey, you okay?” Izuku pulls on the sleeve of the arm Shouto is using to cover his face. “Are you getting sick?”

Shouto shakes his head and refuses to uncover his face.

“You’re getting red…” Izuku notices.

“You’re impossible.” Kirishima laughs at him. “I give up.”

Izuku gives him a confused look, but decides to ignore him in favor of Shouto. “Do you want some water? Did you swallow wrong?”

Shouto keeps shaking his head as frost spreads from the edge of his sleeve.

“Don’t forget your permission slip!” Iida declares suddenly right behind him.

Izuku activates One For All on reflex and nearly leaps five hundred feet in the air, but instead he awkwardly stumbles in place when One For All immediately fizzles out.

He glances back sheepishly to spot Aizawa-sensei glaring at him from the edge of the parking lot.

“It is imperative that you deliver these to your parents immediately!” Iida proclaims as he shoves a piece of paper at each of them in turn.

“Thanks, Iida.” Izuku takes the paper and frowns at the dense blocks of text on it. His mom is not going to be happy about this.

“IF EVERYONE HAS THEIR LUGGAGE AND THEIR PAPERS,” Present Mic yells. “QUIT LOITERING!”

Izuku huffs and folds away the permission slip before heading for his bags.

Shouto catches his hand before he can get too far. “Izuku,” he says, and snaps his mouth closed abruptly.

Izuku smiles and squeezes his hand back. “You got my number, right? Text me.”

Shouto stares into his eyes and flushes bright red. “I can do that.”

Izuku gives his hand a final squeeze. “Okay, bye!”

“B-bye.”

Izuku turns away and his thoughts are immediately overtaken with his new workout plans. He probably needs to go up a whole weight class if he wants to handle One For All better. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to brush up on his Judo. He wonders if All Might will have any suggestions.

His drive consumes him. For a long while, he forgets about everything else.


 

His mom is definitely not happy about him living at U.A. In fact, for a while he thinks she might pull him out of school entirely.

He’ll be a hero no matter what. That’s the kind of determination he has to fulfill his dream… But he’s afraid to leave all the friends he’s made. Going back to not having anybody would suck.

It’s a breath of relief when she ultimately agrees.

Having All Might personally come to the house to convince her is probably entirely the reason she agrees at all.

“So,” All Might kneels down to his level once they’re alone. “I hear you’ve discovered another quirk.”

Izuku startles and glances around the living room, making sure his mother isn’t anywhere nearby. “Uh…”

“I’ve also heard that it has some very unfortunate effects.” All Might prompts.

Izuku winces and wrings his hands. “Sorry, All Might… I really didn’t know! I thought I was quirkless, so—”

All Might waves his huge hands dismissively. “Oh, my boy, I don’t care about that. From the beginning, I was prepared to pass One for All to someone with a quirk of their own. No, what I’m really worried about is your well-being, of course.”

Izuku blinks. “Of course…” He repeats.

All Might frowns. “Young Midoriya, is it true that while using this quirk you have experienced death?”

Izuku scratches nervously at the back of his neck, looking at a distant point over All Might’s shoulder. “Oh yeah, loads of times.” Spoiler: It sucks every time.

“I see.” All Might’s frown deepens. “Young Midoriya… I realize I have put an enormous burden on your shoulders. One by all rights you are not ready to bear.”

Izuku wraps his arms around himself self-consciously. Sounds about right.

“One For All is not the only quirk that can present an enormous burden. This one in particular…” All Might continues. “I think it best if you do not use it. And most definitely never come to rely on it.”

Izuku clenches his fists against his sides and stares at the ground.

“Do you understand, young Midoriya?” All Might puts one of his enormous hands on his shoulder. “It is for your own good, that you put such a… self-destructive quirk out of your mind.”

Izuku bites his lip, just barely stopping himself from snorting. How is that different from One For All? “I understand, All Might.”

“Good!” All Might pats him on the back, nearly knocking him over. “That aside— good job at the training camp! I could only be there for a short time, but without you things could have gone much worse!”

Izuku smiles back tremulously. It’s hard to think favorably on those events when he lived through all the worst possible outcomes first.

All Might has a point in a roundabout way though. If Izuku is going to ever be useful outside of dying, he needs to master One For All first.


 

Izuku knows he’s supposed to be excited, but all he manages is a distant annoyance when move-in day comes around.

It’s one less day he can dedicate to training, and the new semester is about to begin— he hates to waste such valuable time.

Everyone else, however, is definitely excited.

Uraraka runs up to him in the parking lot and tackle-hugs him. “Deku!”

“Urk!” Izuku freezes on the spot, wincing as his back twinges painfully. He went a little overboard on the weights yesterday.

“I’m glad I caught you!” Uraraka says when she pulls back. “I’ve been thinking over the break, you know, and I’ve decided I’m not going to avoid you anymore!”

Izuku blinks. “You were avoiding me?” He didn’t notice anything like that.

Uraraka huffs and says. “It’s nothing to do with you.”

Izuku is confused. It seems like it has everything to do with him? Did he do something wrong?

“I just had a lot to think about and I couldn’t with your—” she waves pointedly at his face and doesn’t finish her sentence.

“Okay?” Izuku says dubiously

Uraraka nods. “So, from now on, we are best friends!”

“Uh,” Izuku says.

Uraraka has a blazing fire in her eyes and it’s making him nervous. “I promise to support you, Deku!”

“... Thanks.” Izuku says, blinking confusedly. “You too?”

“Yeah!” Uraraka cheers energetically and holds her hand up for a hi-five.

Izuku doesn’t leave her hanging no matter how bewildered he is.

When he finds their assigned dorm, most of 1-A has already arrived.

He brightens up considerably when he spots Shouto near the back of the crowd and makes a beeline for him.

“Go! Deku! Go!” Uraraka whisper-chants at him excitedly.

Izuku gives her a concerned look and almost second guesses grabbing Shouto’s hand.

It’s worth it when Shouto startles and whips his head around and smiles. “Izuku,” he breathes.

Izuku grins. It feels like he hasn’t seen Shouto in forever. “Hey,”

“Gay!” Someone cough-shouts.

Izuku looks around but Mineta is already scampering off between the legs of an irked Shouji.

“Ahem.” Aizawa-sensei calls for their attention from the front of the crowd.

During the tour, when Aizawa-sensei shows them the gym in the basement Izuku whoops and jumps up and down. They have isolation machines and free weights and everything he needs. He can finally stop spending so much money on gear!


 

Izuku nearly drops himself on his head when a vigorous banging starts up on his door. “Jeez,” He huffs and begins his set again, carefully lowering himself to the ground and back up again. “Door’s open!”

“AHA!” Uraraka swings the door open wide, hands on her hips.

Izuku pauses and stares at her upside down.

“Eh? Deku! All you’ve got in here are boxes!”

Behind Uraraka is what looks like the rest of class 1-A, all of them peeking nosily into his room.

“Wow. This couldn’t get more boring.” Kaminari comments.

“No effort at all.” Ashido shakes her head.

He grins automatically as Shouto peeks around the doorjamb, spots him, and goes red. Oops. His shirt is riding up.

“You were supposed to spend today unpacking!” Uraraka scolds him. “Look at this! You haven’t even put sheets on the bed.”

Izuku folds himself over to get out of the handstand, and straightens up on his mat. He self-consciously adjusts his sweat-damp T-shirt. “Uh… I wanted to work out.”

“How are you supposed to live like this?” Uraraka waves her hands pointedly at his barren walls.

Izuku shrugs. “I labeled all the boxes? It’s not like it’s too much of a problem.”

Uraraka huffs, apparently personally offended by the state of his room. “This won’t do at all! I can’t believe you, Deku.” She turns around and points, stern as Aizawa-sensei in a mood. “You!” She says to Shouto. “Help me help your boyfriend not live in squalor.”

“Whoa,” Izuku rubs nervously at the back of his neck. “D-don’t order people around like that, Uraraka! And don’t you think ‘squalor’ is a harsh word? It’s pretty clean in here...”

Shouto shuffles into the room regardless of his protests.

“What about the contest!” Ashido whines.

Uraraka waves the class away. “You can keep going, of course! We just need to wrangle poor Deku.”

“‘Poor Deku’?” Izuku mutters incredulously.

“Aww, fine.” Ashido whines and then suddenly bounds down the hall with a thunderous stomping, the other students following her. “Next is Aoyama!”

“What is going on?” Izuku leans over to whisper at Shouto.

Shouto shrugs at him. “They’re nosy.”

Izuku wrinkles his nose. “Seems about right…”

“Alright!” Uraraka shuts his door and turns back to him with flames in her eyes. “Let’s fix this sorry excuse for a home!”

“Eh?” Izuku shuffles nervously. “It’s okay. I got it. You don’t have to—”

“If you won’t do it,” Uraraka leans into his space menacingly. “We’ll just have to do it for you!”

“E-eh?” Izuku tries to give Shouto a beseeching look, but instead sees he’s already opened one of his boxes and is pulling out his All Might figurines. “Eh!? You too!?”

“Izuku,” Shouto says when he opens another box and finds more All Might paraphernalia. “... Are you a fan of All Might?”

“Wow!” Izuku spins around and sees that Uraraka has managed to open every other box while he wasn’t looking. “It’s like a fanboy’s cave of wonders!”

Izuku wraps both his arms around his head in an attempt to hide his blush. “G-guys… this is embarrassing…”


 

“That’s much better!” Uraraka declares much later, flopping down on his newly made up bed.

Izuku sighs as he reorganizes the All Might figurines they’ve placed on top of his dresser.

“KNOCK KNOCK!” Ashido suddenly bursts through his door without actually knocking. “Urgh—”

“S-sorry,” Izuku backs up and lets go of her throat. “You startled me.”

“Jeez,” Ashido rubs her throat. “Some reflexes you got there. Anyway!” She pushes a plate at him. “Here you go! Second place prize!”

“Cake?” Izuku takes the plate dubiously. “What was I competing for again?”

“There was cake!?” Uraraka jumps at him.

Alarmed, Izuku lets go of the plate easily when she grabs it.

“Yeah!” Ashido says proudly. “First place won because of this cake!” She punches Izuku playfully on the shoulder. “You won because of abs!”

“Uh?” Izuku is confused. “Okay?”

“Also, I’m pretty sure Kirishima voted for you like three times, so there’s that.” Ashido tacks on thoughtfully.

“... Huh,” Izuku looks to Shouto, hoping he’ll shed some light on the situation, but Shouto is slumped over in his desk chair, chin in his hand, and looking three winks away from falling asleep.

“I can’t believe there was cake and I missed it!” Uraraka holds the plate reverently.

Izuku can already see her drooling. “... You can have it if you want.”

“Really?” Uraraka gives him a watery look.

“S-sure…” Izuku backs up a step. “It’s thanks for helping me with my room, I guess.”

“Deku…” Uraraka says. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”

“Uh, you’re welcome?” Izuku blushes.

“Anyway!” Ashido says loudly. “We’re having a popcorn throwing party in the common room. You guys should come!”

“But there’s school tomorrow?”

Ashido punches him the arm. “You’re too diligent, Deku! You sound like the class president!” Ashido flashes them the peace sign. “Anyway, my job here is done! Later!”

“Uh, bye,” Izuku says as Ashido flounces back from whence she came. He scratches confusedly at his head. Popcorn throwing… party?

“You know, Deku,” Uraraka mumbles around her fork.

Izuku snaps to attention. There’s something unusually mischievous about her eyes. “Thanks for the cake and all… but how are you planning to repay him.” She juts her chin at Shouto.

When Izuku looks, he sees that Shouto is slowly listing to the right. He’ll fall out of the chair soon like that. “... With a nap, apparently.”

Uraraka sighs. “It’s as I thought…”

“Huh?”

Uraraka shakes her head. “Deku, it’s obvious. You should carry him to his room!”

Izuku frowns. He’s not sure Shouto would like that.

“His room is on the top floor by the way.” Uraraka says. She turns and points like she’s marking the location in space. “From your balcony it’s the third one up and one to the right.”

“Eh? Why are you giving me directions from there?” He can take the stairs like a normal person!

“Use your imagination, Deku!” Uraraka admonishes him. “Todoroki deserves a ride on the Midoriya Express!”

Izuku flinches. “The— the— the what now?”

Uraraka huffs and takes an haughty bite of her cake. “Nevermind, that’s just what the girls call it.”

“What?”

“Deku,” Uraraka says. “Does your boyfriend deserve nice things?”

Izuku feels cornered. “Yes?”

“Then it should be a no brainer to hold him in your arms!” Uraraka declares. “And take him places really fast!” Uraraka pumps her fist and finishes. “Like a high speed train of charisma!”

Izuku, at a loss, gives Shouto a hopeful look. Thank goodness— he seems to have woken up at some point during that enthusiastic exchange and is blinking blankly at Uraraka. “Shouto… do you understand what she’s saying?”

Izuku has a split second to recognize the twitch in his face that heralds an oncoming smile before Shouto turns and hides his mouth in his hand. “Not gonna help me, huh?”

Uraraka knocks him on the head with her fork to get his attention again. “Of course,” Uraraka says slyly. “If I’ve misjudged the situation and you’re just waiting for me to leave…”

“W-what is that look for?” Izuku shivers.

“Hm,” Uraraka hums around a bite of her cake and nods decisively. “Yes, that’s the right way. I should leave you two alone.”

“Uh—”

“Goodbye, Deku! Todoroki! Don’t forget what I said.”

Izuku blinks as Uraraka flicks the lock on the door before closing it behind her with a very poignant click. “Um,”

When he looks around, Shouto is in the middle of yawning. “... Do you really want me to carry you to your room?” It seems a little weird when Shouto’s got two working legs of his own, but Izuku aims to please.

Shouto blinks and looks away to fiddle with his sleeve. “... Seems a bit silly.”

“That’s what I thought!” Izuku exclaims. He huffs and mutters, “What the hell is a Midoriya Express anyway?”

“Izuku,” Shouto begins.

Izuku straightens up and tilts his head inquisitively.

“... What are we, exactly?” Shouto asks, still fiddling with his sleeve.

“Eh?” Izuku shifts.

Shouto sighs and looks at the textbooks on his desk instead of Izuku. “You never protest when people call me your… your boyfriend. Is that what we are?”

“Yeah?” Izuku straightens his shirt self-consciously. “Do you not like that word?”

“No…” Shouto covers his mouth with his fingers but doesn’t quite manage to hide the little smile there. “That’s fine.”

Izuku rubs at the back of his neck nervously. He doesn’t know what Shouto wants out of him. Is reassurance all he’s looking for?

“I’m just glad.” Shouto continues after a moment. “I thought you’d be mad at me.”

“Eh?” Izuku reels back at the thought he’d be mad at Shouto. “Why would you think that!”

Shouto starts fiddling with his sleeve again. “I never texted you, even though you asked me to.”

He did? Izuku wracks his brains. He doesn’t remember anything like that.

Shouto slumps dejectedly in his desk chair. “I didn’t know what to say. And after a while when you didn’t text me either I thought you might be mad…”

Izuku tugs on his bottom lip nervously. He realizes now… he didn’t really talk to anyone over the break. It hadn’t even entered his mind that he should. “Uh, no, wait… this is my fault.”

Shouto looks up at him.

“It’s not that I’m upset or anything, but, uh… I’m not really used to having people to just… talk to.” Izuku says. He side eyes the neat row of All Might figurines on his dresser. “And I was pretty busy over the summer, anyway. So… sorry about that.”

Shouto gives a little relieved sigh. “I see. I’m just glad you’re not mad.”

“Even if that were the case,” Izuku says brightly. “I like you too much to stay mad at you!”

Shouto ducks his head as his entire face goes red. “O-oh…”

Izuku grins, pleased with himself. “Anyway, let me walk you to your room? You look like you’ll fall asleep at any moment.”

“A-ah…” Shouto agrees and doesn’t ask to be carried once.


 

That night Izuku dies in his sleep.

He thinks he’s dreaming at first. One moment he’s blissfully asleep and then he feels pain as sudden as a camera flash and then everything is shaking like an earthquake—

He makes the mistake of opening his eyes too early, just in time to see the ceiling crashing down on him.

Well. He lets time rewind a little farther with annoyance.

He gives himself a couple minutes. Izuku leaps out of bed and checks the time— three AM. No one is awake at 3 AM!

He runs out onto his balcony and looks up at the floor above him. It looks fine and he doesn’t hear anything.

He leaps up onto the next floor balcony, catching himself on the railing and flipping himself over. He squints suspiciously into a darkened bedroom. Who has the room above him?

Izuku tries tugging the balcony door open, but finds it locked. He tugs again with Full Cowl activated and the door skids open on its tracks with a little screech of tearing metal.

“Guh!” Kaminari tumbles off his bed in surprise, sparking in alarm. “Wuh— Wha—”

Izuku frowns and looks around at what he can see in the predawn light. Nothing suspicious…

The building shakes with a boom so deep it’s nearly subsonic, and the earthquake-like tremors begin again.

“Shit,” Izuku hisses. It’s coming from below!

“M-midoriya?” Kaminari grabs at the carpet to keep himself from falling on his face.

Izuku slumps. “Sorry, too late.”

The entire building goes down a second later. Most likely with all his classmates still inside. Dammit!

This time when Izuku jumps from his balcony he aims downwards. He lands in a roll among the manicured bushes around the side of the building and then, not caring with so many lives on the line, jumps through the ground floor windows feet first.

He vaults messily over a couch he forgot was in the way, accidentally knocking it over, and runs for the stairs to the basement. Izuku hisses through his teeth as he runs through the possibilities here. Of the people in the building, there are very few with the kind of firepower to take down a concrete structure of this size with one shot. Izuku himself, if he didn’t mind breaking an arm, Bakugou, if he concentrated the blast in the right place, and maybe Shouto if he flash-froze the place first.

Most likely of all though… is that there’s an intruder.

However, when he makes it down into the basement, there’s no one there. Puffing, Izuku scans the room for more doors— anywhere a villain could hide— but there’s nothing but exercise equipment and his own frustrated face looking back at him from a wall of mirrors.

Perhaps there’s a different entrance to a sub-basement?

Izuku growls. He doesn’t have the time for that! Oh. He turns around and spots a red fire alarm on the wall and realizes he’s got more options than he thought. He shouldn’t be focusing on stopping the explosion he should be focusing on saving the lives of his classmates!

Izuku dives for the little plastic lever, but collides with someone who enters from the door to the stairs midair.

“VILLAIN!” Izuku bellows intelligently and grapples the stranger to the ground.

“Ah!” Yaoyorozu screams and slaps him.

“Ow,” Izuku freezes and rubs his cheek sheepishly, straddling his supposed ‘villain.’

“M-m-midoriya— I’m sorry—” Yaoyorozu babbles with wide eyes. She’s dressed in silk pajamas and her hair is down, messy like she just got out of bed.

“Uh,” Izuku backs up off her quickly. “Sorry, thought you were someone else—”

Yaoyorozu sits up rubbing her shoulder. “What… How did I… ?”

“You should leave.” Izuku tells her and pulls the fire alarm.

Yaoyorozu looks at him incredulously. “Midoriya! That’s against the rules!” She yells over the screeching of the alarm.

Izuku shrugs. “It needed doing.”

Yaoyorozu gapes at him.

“You should leave now.” Izuku informs her. “It’s the rules in a fire emergency.”

“You! But— you!” Yaoyorozu struggles to her feet. “Midoriya! You’re supposed to leave, too!”

Izuku gives the basement another suspicious look around. The explosion should happen any minute now. “Naw,” he says. “I’ll catch up.” Maybe there’s a hidden explosive device? If this time around doesn’t work, at least he’s close enough that he should spot it the moment it goes off.

“You—” Yaoyorozu makes a frustrated noise. “You’re going to get in trouble!”

Izuku grins around his frustration and gives her a thumbs up. “I don’t mind if you tattle on me, Yaoyorozu! You can do it, Assistant Prez!”

Yaoyorozu gapes at him. “Okay… I’ll… tell Aizawa-sensei then.”

“Yeah!” Izuku waves her away. “Go do that! Quick!”

Yaoyorozu does go, looking at him over her shoulder every couple seconds. Her expression suggests he’s off his rocker.

Izuku turns his back on her and glares at the fluorescently lit basement, waiting.

Nothing happens, however, and after ten minutes or so Aizawa-sensei ambles into the room.

“So, it’s true.” Aizawa-sensei notes when he sees him. He spins a keychain around his finger lazily. “What no good are you up to this time, Midoriya?”

Izuku scowls as Aizawa-sensei unlocks the little red box around the fire alarm to access the controls. He doesn’t know what he did to stop the explosion, which means he doesn’t know how to stop it if it happens again.

Aizawa-sensei shuts off the alarm and relocks the control box. “Well? What do you have to say, Midoriya?”

“There’s a bomb.” Izuku says.

Aizawa-sensei looks at him sharply.

“Or an explosion— I don’t know. All I know is that it’s powerful enough to bring down the building. It hasn’t gone off yet.” Izuku tugs on his bottom lip in agitation. “What’s different?” Izuku mutters. “Did I scare the villain away but not see them?”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “I told you not to use that quirk.”

“Can’t really help it, it’s automatic…” Izuku mutters sullenly.

Aizawa-sensei puts a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Midoriya, go stand outside with your classmates. I’ll take care of this.”

“But—” Izuku tries to protest.

“It’s not even been twenty four hours, and you’ve already done hundreds of dollars of damage to school property.” Aizawa-sensei observes blandly.

Izuku winces. “Uh—”

“Was it really necessary to break the window? And bleed all over the brand new carpet?”

Did he do that? Oops.

“Not to mention,” Aizawa-sensei continues sternly. “The undue distress you’ve caused your classmates and teachers by waking everyone up at an ungodly hour.”

Izuku shuffles self-consciously under Aizawa-sensei’s hand. “Sorry…” He’d do more to save lives, he thinks, no matter the scolding he gets.

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “You’re lucky I believe you. You’re still getting detention though.”

Izuku winces.

“Now, shoo.” Aizawa-sensei pushes him towards the door. “All Might and the rest will be here soon, and there’s no need to let them think Innocent Child #2 is capable of mischief.”

“Number two?” Izuku repeats dubiously.

“Out of twenty.” Aizawa-sensei intones like he’s scolding. “Shoo, I said.”

Izuku shoos.

When he sheepishly ducks outside, Iida is waiting for him with his hands on his hips. The rest of his classmates are blinking blearily in a loose group behind him. Everyone is wearing their pajamas and bedhead.

More than a few of them boo at him.

“I would have expected better of you, Midoriya!” Iida declares. He waves his hands agitatedly. “To pull such a prank on your classmates! I had not thought you capable of such foolishness!”

Izuku scratches meekly at his cheek. “Sorry, didn’t mean to.”

“D-didn’t mean to!” Iida splutters at the top of his lungs. “One does not accidentally pull a fire alarm! It is an emergency device and to use one in error would be to—”

“You’re bleeding.” Shouto cuts in. He circles around Iida to stand in front of him and glares down at Izuku’s feet.

He’s got both arms wrapped around himself, holding a soft-looking blue yukata closed over whatever he wears to sleep. Izuku wants to touch it, but Shouto looks kind of mad already.

“I’ve already prepared some bandages.” Yaoyorozu follows Shouto. She pulls her sleep shirt up and pulls a bottle out of her stomach. “And here’s some antiseptic.”

Shit. Izuku suddenly realizes— Yaoyorozu can probably make a ton of C4 if she wants, and she can make it fast.

She can certainly make enough to blow up a building.

Izuku refuses to take his eyes off her as Shouto kneels down and pokes at one of his legs.

“Um,” Yaoyorozu looks away bashfully under his stare. “Sorry, but you did tell me to tell— it seemed like the best course of action, as assistant president. I mean—” She self-consciously tucks a lock of hair behind her ear. “I think, um, it’s only right that Aizawa-sensei be informed…”

Izuku hisses as Shouto splashes too much antiseptic on his leg. He cut himself up more than he thought, apparently.

“Serves you right.” Shouto mutters mutinously at him and starts wrapping his calf with swift, efficient movements.

Yaoyorozu… he considers the girl as she stares at the ground and hugs herself meekly. Can she be a traitor?


 

Izuku doesn’t sleep well after that. It is difficult knowing that an attack could come at any time. Worse— that they’ve only narrowly avoided an attack already.

He knows Bakugou is in the kitchen from the screaming and banging long before he actually arrives.

Bakugou is angrily chopping carrots on the counter and yelling, “DIE!” every couple seconds.

Izuku averts his eyes and shuffles to the fridge to pull out the ingredients for a post-workout shake. Best to give Bakugou a wide berth; he’s never been a morning person.

When he turns around Shouto is blinking muzzily at him from the doorway, wrapped in his blue yukata.

“Oh, hey,” Izuku nearly drops an egg and fumbles it back into his hands after a heartstopping moment. “Uh, good morning.”

Shouto grunts at him.

Izuku grins fondly and steps to the side as Shouto shuffles past him to get to the cupboard. “Not awake yet, huh?”

“Who’s fault is that?” Shouto grumbles as he pulls down a box of tea and a kettle.

“Hey, hey,” Izuku follows him, snagging the blender so he can load it up next to him while Shouto pours the water for the tea. “I already heard plenty of that from Iida this morning. You know that guy can rant and run at the same time? It’s impressive.”

Shouto turns the stove on and looks askance at his torso. “Is that why you’re so sweaty at this ungodly hour?”

“Mm,” Izuku nods. “Never skip leg day.”

Shouto stares at him for several moments, blinking slowly. “... Izuku.”

“Hm?”

“Are you planning to eat those eggs raw?” Shouto wrinkles his nose. Izuku wants to poke it.

“Hm.” Izuku gives a little nod. “S’good, ‘cuz they’re full of fat and protein.”

Shouto picks up the kettle just before it begins whistling and abruptly turns away from him. “I’m taking this back to my room. The kitchen doesn’t stock strong enough tea for this…”

“Uh, okay.” Izuku watches him go.

He looks back at his shake. “It’s really not that bad…”

“IT’S FUCKING DISGUSTING, DEKU.” Bakugou tells him and explodes his cutting board, sending bits of onion flying.


 

Izuku doesn’t know how to deal with Yaoyorozu. He can’t exactly walk up to her and ask about her treasonous intentions.

He’s already informed Aizawa-sensei of his suspicions, but all he got was a disinterested hum and a, “You’re not getting out of detention.” It didn’t do anything to assuage his worries.

He watches her as inconspicuously as he can, but he doubts there’s anything to be gleaned from her behavior during class. If she hasn’t given anything away up to this point, she’s not going to start.

When he arrives at their usual table during breakfast, he wedges himself in between Yaoyorozu and Shouto, forcing them apart. “Hi, guys!”

“M-midoriya!” Yaoyorozu nearly falls off the bench.

Shouto scoots over for him. “I saved a seat for you, Izuku…” He gives him an exasperated look.

“I didn’t want that one.” Izuku says and takes a bite of one of his dumplings. “I want this one.” He offers Shouto a bite when he keeps looking at him. “Want some?”

“No, thank you.” Shouto turns back to his food with a sigh.

“That’s… a lot of food, Midoriya.” Yaoyorozu observes nervously.

“Yeah, giving everyone sleep deprivation really works up an appetite.” Uraraka grumps from across the table.

Izuku frowns. “I said I was sorry. And, um, I’m trying to gain weight.”

“Why?” Shouto murmurs. “Your body is perfect…”

Izuku drops his dumpling in his rice and then fumbles his chopsticks into his soup while attempting a recovery. “Uh— um— I mean— muscles. I— muscle!” Eloquent. He blushes even harder at that.

When he chances a panicked glance, Shouto is looking back at him with an equally panicked look, hand over his mouth.

“Well, he’s not wrong.” Tsuyu comments blandly.

Uraraka giggle-snorts into her juice.

Izuku ducks over his food and hides his eyes behind his hair, picking determinedly at his food, while Shouto does the same but with less drama.

“Well,” Yaoyorozu picks up the thread of the conversation hesitantly. “I guess we both have to eat a lot to keep our strength up! I’m gonna eat a lot, too, Midoriya!”

Izuku eyes her from the corner of his eye. Yaoyorozu has always registered as the kind-but-meek type, the furthest thing from a threat. But… could it be a calculated persona?


 

It's just his luck that he gets paired with her during the practical that afternoon.

“Today some of you will be heroes!” All Might declares brightly when he picks them up from homeroom. “And some of you will be villains!” He declares with a dark grin, clenching his fist dramatically.

Izuku listens with interest as All Might explains the exercise. He's got a PowerPoint prepared, which is an improvement over the crumpled note cards he worked off of all last semester. It seems Izuku isn't the only one who's been working hard over the summer.

“You'll be divided into teams of three.” All Might says. “A villain team and a hero team. The heroes’ objective is to get through the course with their comrades and the civilian dummy they start with.”

All Might stops here to shuffle through the cabinets on the wall opposite the projector screen. It takes him a minute.

“Aha!” All Might pulls out what looks like a crash dummy. He turns it's head to show them it has a green indicator for a face. “These dummies weigh the same as an average adult, and have sensors which will be tripped by damage. Keep your civilians safe! You'll lose points even if you get them to the exit while injured!”

Ashido bounces up and down, waving her hand. “All Might-sensei! All Might-sensei! Are the villains allowed to fuck shit up?”

“That's generally what a villain does, yeah.” Jirou snarks.

“Absolutely!” All Might says.

Ashido cheers.

“The villains’ objective,” All Might continues, “is to stop the heroes and not let any of the civilians escape! For you see,” All Might grins. He's likely aiming for cunning but hits closer to bubbly. “The villains begin with eight civilians of their own! It's a hostage situation!”

Izuku tugs on his bottom lip. Interesting.


 

After drawing lots, Izuku ends up on a team with Sero and Yaoyorozu. They're up against the hero team Bakugou, Kaminari, and Shouto.

“Aw man!” Sero whines. “They're all really strong! We're done for!”

Izuku ignores him and unfolds the map All Might provided him with. It's a blueprint of the building they're guarding for the exercise with the enter and exit points for the heroes helpfully marked.

“Don't say that, Sero!” Yaoyorozu says. “We've got a really strong team, too! Plus, Midoriya has great strategies!” She falters. “Right, Midoriya?”

Izuku pulls on his bottom lip as he traces out prospective routes on the map, eyeing a long hallway in particular. “It's almost a straight shot for the heroes.” He mutters. “They can basically see the finish line from the start, so even starting with less information they have an advantage…”

“We're doomed!” Sero cries when Izuku continues to ignore them.

“Kacchan won't like that.” Izuku mutters. “He won't go for the exit, it's guaranteed… because it's too easy.”

He traces out another path on the map. He smiles.

“I mean,” Yaoyorozu reasons out. “All we have to do is guard the hostages, right? We should split them up, so it's harder to—”

“No.” Izuku leans back, fingers tapping on the map. “We keep them together, and we set a trap.”

“How?” Sero says. “Do you seriously want to fight them? Literally every person on their team is a heavy hitter!”

Izuku grins. “That's our advantage.”

“I don't follow.” Sero says sullenly.

Yaoyorozu gasps. “The scoring system!”

“Yeah, if the heroes all get over the finish line with their dummy they get one point each and we get zero. That doesn't help us at all.” Sero grumps.

Izuku shakes his head. “Thinking about it in simpler terms… We start with eight points and get negative two points for every hero or civilian that makes it over the finish line.”

“That's not simpler.” Sero frowns.

Yaoyorozu claps her hands together. “I get it! And the heroes get negative two points for every civilian they injure or comrade they lose because we get those points!”

Izuku grins. “Exactly. So our minimum win condition is just failing to stop two of them from crossing the line. But it's even easier than that…” Izuku taps his map pointedly. “Because every member of this team has the same weakness.”

“Guys, can you put this in smaller words preferably without any of the math.” Sero says despairingly.

“Every member of their team,” Izuku clarifies. “Has AOE friendly fire issues.”

“With the right trap,” Yaoyorozu says brightly. “They can't miss!”

“And,” Izuku looks at their pile of civilian dummies. “We don't lose points for killing civilians… but we gain them if we can get the heroes to do it for us.”

“Uh… okay.” Sero says. “I'll help any way I can, but I think I'll leave the brainy stuff to you guys…”

“What sort of trap are you thinking of, Midoriya?” Yaoyorozu shakes her fists in front of her chest, barely containing her excitement. “I can make enough steel for a cage for all three of them… maybe with rubber insulation.”

Izuku tugs on his lip, trying not to frown at the girl. He’s having trouble seeing her as an ally… even though it would be logically unsound for her to attack them on the course under the eyes of hundreds of cameras. “No, that’s where Sero comes in.”

“Yes!” Sero cries.

Izuku pulls out a pen and circles a long hallway on the second floor. “Here. I can lure Kacchan easily. Kaminari will likely follow him.” He draws a line from the entrance to the trap, outlining his path. “Shouto will…” Izuku frowns and taps the exit point. “He’ll hesitate.”

“You think he’ll go for the exit?” Yaoyorozu says doubtfully.

“No,” Izuku says. “But he’ll think seriously about it.”

“Yeah,” Yaoyorozu agrees, looking at Izuku askance. “He kind of loathes Bakugou. He never has anything nice to say about him.”

Izuku sighs. On the whole, Shouto is not the forgive-and-forget type. Izuku is the sole exception it seems. “Yeah, he won’t want to follow, and Bakugou won’t give him any reason to. But, he’ll do the math just like we did. Even if he gets the dummy— which knowing Kacchan is very possible— he’ll figure out that crossing that line doesn’t guarantee a win. And if he does… given our plans, it basically guarantees we win.”

“So he will follow Bakugou.” Yaoyorozu says.

“Yeah,” Izuku agrees. “But he’ll be cautious about it. Since Kacchan will likely be going at about the speed of Mach Two… it’ll be easy to separate them.”

Yaoyorozu brightens. “Oh! I can distract him!”

Izuku looks at her. He bites his tongue on the urge to keep her well away from Shouto. If she hurt him… “What’s your plan?”

Yaoyorozu looks down at the map, mimicking his stance with her thumb and forefinger against her bottom lip. “I think,” she muses. “I can get him to destroy the dummy if he has it.”

“Eh? How?”

Yaoyorozu snaps her fingers. “Ah… you know how he has less control over his fire side?”

“Mm,” Izuku is aware.

“Well, you know how his control is even worse around you?”

Izuku furrows his brows. “What? It is? Are you sure?”

Sero snorts. “Yes, dude, we’re sure.”

“You know, after you asked him out. He showed up at the girls’ room already on fire.” Yaoyorozu says.

“Eh?” They let Shouto in the girls’ room? Isn’t that against the rules?

“In the middle of the night.” Yaoyorozu nods. “It was a real crisis.”

“Uh.” Izuku says. “Really?”

“Oh,” Yaoyorozu corrects abruptly. “No one got hurt! I mean an emotional crisis.”

“Okay.” Izuku says dubiously.

“And I think I can get it to happen again.” Yaoyorozu says brightly. She pulls a newly formed digital recorder out of her stomach. “I just need some recordings of your voice!”

“Eh?” Izuku is confused. “Me?”

“To be clear, I am not following this conversation.” Sero says with a smirk. “But even I can tell where this is going.”

Yaoyorozu clicks the recorder on and holds it up to Izuku’s face. “Midoriya! Say something romantic!”

Izuku stares. He looks at Yaoyorozu’s honest excitement and Sero smugly slouching against the wall. He looks at the recorder and blushes bright red.

“Uh— um, I mean— that’s kind of— do you really need? I dunno—”

“Just imagine that Todoroki is right here.” Yaoyorozu encourages him. “What would you say to him?”

Izuku looks down at his feet. “Hi?”

Sero snorts.

“Why don’t you try a compliment?” Yaoyorozu coaxes. “Tell him what you think.”

Izuku wrings his hands. “Um. He’s always the perfect temperature.” He immediately breaks out in a sweat and covers his face. “Oh my god. Can we come up with a new plan? This is so embarrassing. Forget everything I said. We’re set up for a loss!”

“... You literally just described his quirk.” Sero observes. “How are you this embarrassed.”

“You can do it, Midoriya!” Yaoyorozu says.

When Izuku just wraps his arms around his head and wobbles for a moment, she tries again. “How about this: what made you decide to ask him out? Logical guy like you must have reasoned it out, right?”

Not really. Izuku tugs on his hair. “Um,” he thinks back to that harrowing day he discovered his latent quirk. He got his first kiss... with death. Ugh. “I just, uh, kind of realized that if Shouto died I would immediately kill myself.”

“Holy shit.” Sero whispers.

“Um,” Yaoyorozu shifts her eyes to the left, obviously embarrassed to look straight at him. Good. He’s a goddamn embarrassment. “Well, that’s… pretty dark, Midoriya. Maybe try rephrasing it?”

“Yeah, so it’s a little less horrific.” Sero comments.

Izuku frowns and self-consciously smoothes down the folds of loose material his costume leaves on his arm. Frankly… he’d kill himself for a lot of people. But... “I can’t… I mean, I don’t want to live without him. Shouto is…” Izuku falters. He can’t help but remember the way Shouto always dies with a smile. He always… has a smile for Izuku.

“Holy shit,” Sero whispers. “He’s crying.”

Yaoyorozu makes a harsh cutting motion at him, still holding the recorder out.

Izuku swallows around the lump in his throat. “I guess… you know how All Might is the Symbol of Peace? He inspires everyone to— um, do better and— I kinda… wanna be like him. But, like, you can’t be your own Symbol of Peace. That’s… Shouto is kind of that for me, I think.” Izuku clenches his fists. “I, uh, won’t really get into it, but he, um, has been through some stuff, you know? But Shouto is still capable of moving forward and— and—” Smiling for Izuku, as Shigaraki hollows him out, one rib at a time— “I need that. He always has hope, so I can have hope, too… even when that seems like the hardest thing in the world.”

Izuku shuts his mouth with a snap and flexes his fingers. He’s never really verbalized all that before. Ever since he watched his friends die, he’s been trying to forget it, but he realizes now he’s been compartmentalizing some of his good feelings in with the bad.

He sniffs and wipes at his eyes. They’re safe now. Everyone is safe. “Was that, um, was that good?”

When he looks up Yaoyorozu is looking at him with stars in her eyes. “Th-that was great, Midoriya! This is more than I need!”

Izuku shuffles nervously, feeling like she’s congratulating him. He doesn’t want to be congratulated… he wants a goddamn hug.

“Well then,” Sero straightens up from the wall, apparently just as uncomfortable as Izuku is. “We should get going then, right? We have a trap to set.”

“Uh, yeah,” Izuku snaps to attention and spins on his heel. “Uh! Sero! Come with me!”


 

Bakugou really is so predictable.

Izuku makes a show of it. He waits until the starting bell rings to pick up the dummy he’s brought with him and puts a harrowed expression on his face.

It isn’t a terribly difficult act— he feels pretty strung out most of the time already.

“OI, DEKU!” Bakugou yells when Izuku swings around the corner, spots the three heroes-in-training, and freezes with an embarrassingly genuine, “Meep!”

He immediately spins and dives back around the corner he came from, carrying his dummy.

“DON’T FUCKING RUN, YOU SHITTY NERD!”

“Wait! Bakugou!”

Honestly, that boy’s like a cat with a laser pointer. Hook, line, and sinker.

It’s easy to track how far behind him Bakugou is, considering he’s incredibly loud and makes extra explosions for every corner he turns. It might have been a difficult task in the past to stay ahead of him, but with Full Cowl he’s slightly faster and significantly more nimble— which is precisely why he chose a path with so many twists and turns.

As he ricochets down the hall at full speed, he gets a brief glimpse of Yaoyorozu peeking from behind a corner. She gives him a thumbs up before sliding into hiding.

Izuku frowns. If she causes Shouto any undo harm... Izuku will have to do something unpleasant.

The only problem is the stairwell to the second floor. It would give Bakugou the largest straightaway of the entire route, and closing long distances suddenly is something he excels at.

So, when Izuku vaults onto the second floor landing, he immediately turns and launches his dummy like a human javelin.

Bakugou is a carefully calculated twenty steps behind him, and has already set off the explosions to set him on a straight-to-Izuku flight path—

Izuku snickers as Bakugou widens his eyes and puts his hands forward to change his trajectory— but he can’t, he’d hit the civilian, though Izuku can tell he wants to. Instead, Bakugou is forced to catch the dummy and is bumped off course.

Izuku ducks and runs into the second floor hallway.

Bakugou’s enraged roar echoes after him almost immediately. “WHAT THE FUCK? IT’S ALREADY FUCKING DEAD, YOU SHITHOLE!”

Izuku grins privately and jumps to high-five Sero, who is hanging from the ceiling like Tarzan, swinging in and out of the shadows.

When Bakugou kicks the door open to the second floor hallway, he’s huffing and puffing like he’s ready for his coronary ten years early.

“Hello, Kacchan,” Izuku greets him merrily, grinning in the semi-dark. “You realize this is a team exercise, don’t you?”

“FUCK YOU, DEKU!” Bakugou explodes his palms for emphasis. “I DON’T NEED THOSE WET WIPES!”

Izuku pouts. “Don’t talk about my boyfriend like that.” Izuku taps his lip. “If he were here I’d actually be scared…”

A lifetime has passed and Bakugou is just as easy to bait as he was in Kindergarten… “YOU THINK YOU’RE SO TOUGH NOW, DEKU? WITH THAT SHITTY QUIRK? I DON’T CARE IF YOU’VE FIGURED OUT HOW TO SHOOT LIGHTNING OUT OF YOUR ASS I’M GOING TO BEAT IT!”

“Well, then.” Izuku mutters as Bakugou launches himself towards Izuku.

Izuku has a nerve wracking few moments of dodging around the enraged boy— a narrow hallway really isn’t the best place for it— when Kaminari finally stumbles onto the trap.

“Bakugou!” Kaminari yells, panting. “Dude! Wait for me!”

Izuku sighs in relief as the last of the lights goes out and there’s a mass FWIP all around them in the dark.

Kaminari screeches like a blonde in a horror movie.

“DEKU!” Bakugou immediately starts setting off explosions in his hands to give himself light, illuminating the space with an inconsistent strobe light effect. He freezes when he realizes the body right in front of him is not, in fact, Izuku anymore.

It’s a dummy.

They are surrounded by civilian dummies hanging from the ceiling, swinging gently on a single strand of tape.

Izuku kicks Bakugou in the back.

“FUCK!” Bakugou recovers quickly and swings around, but Izuku has already dodged back.

He gently taps one of the dummies as he goes, forcing Bakugou to stop his attack as it swings between them. “What’s wrong, Kacchan? You’re hesitating.”

Bakugou grinds his teeth so hard his jaw creaks. He finally looks at Kaminari and notices the boy is hanging from the ceiling by his feet, a civilian taped to his back.

“Um,” Kaminari says as he swings back and forth. “Help?”

The intercom dings. “Minus one point to the hero team! One point to the villain team!” All Might declares over the speakers. “Fight on!”

“FUCK!” Bakugou repeats more emphatically.

“Objective complete!” Yaoyorozu whispers in his ear via the com.

Izuku circles around Bakugou in his little obstacle course of civilian bodies, timing his movements between explosions, when the boy is blind, and tapping dummies at intervals so they swing in unpredictable patterns. “You know,” Izuku muses. “The smart thing would be to grab Kaminari. He’s got a dummy attached and everything. That’s two points for you already. Make a break for it.” Just telling Bakugou the best way to beat his plan is a surefire way to ensure he doesn’t even try it.

Izuku spins on his toes as Bakugou aims a more concentrated explosion at his face, sliding behind a civilian. He grins. The boy needs both hands to aim his fire like that, so he telegraphs his moves. This is already in the bag.

Izuku tsks. “But you won’t, of course. You know, the smartest thing would have been to go straight for the exit. This lesson…” Izuku ducks, pulling a dummy into Bakugou’s path, and kicks his ankle out from under him.

Izuku dodges back as Bakugou catches himself and gets back up again snarling.

“It’s easy to understand what you’re supposed to learn here. ‘You can’t save everyone!’” Izuku hisses as Bakugou kicks out and catches him on the hip, forcing him to spin away or lose his balance. “That’s what All Might is going to say.” Izuku grunts, ducking. “At the end of the day.”

Izuku slides behind a dummy and gives it a sharp push from the back. Bakugou catches it before it crashes into his face.

FWIP!

Bakugou roars as Sero wraps him up, sticking him to the dummy.

“WHAT THE FUCK, DEKU!” Bakugou struggles with his feet two feet off the ground and the dummy’s blank green face smooshed into his cheek. “FIGHT ME, YOU COWARD!”

Sero fist pumps and rapells back up out of range and into the dark.

“I am fighting you.” Izuku reasons. “It’s just that only one of us considers their brain a weapon.”

Bakugou growls wordlessly, struggling against his bonds.

Izuku frowns, watching the tape strain as Bakugou swings back and forth. He’ll actually escape in another minute if he keeps that up. It’ll waste time at least.

“But you know,” Izuku muses. “It doesn’t even matter what All Might is trying to teach us, because you’re not on the level where this lesson could have any sort of meaning to you yet.” Izuku’s frown deepens as he reflects on the absolute spectacle he made trying to save all forty of his classmates with no more resources than the ability to get back up again after dying. Bakugou never got the chance to learn that kind of fear. Now Izuku wonders if it would have made a difference.

“FUCKING DEKU, SHITTY NERD.”

“Hm,” Izuku hums. “You don’t care about saving people at all. You only care about winning. That’s why you can’t win here. Because the only way to win is to not fight.” Izuku frowns. “I guess the only admirable thing here is that you’re so prideful you actually think you could win and save everyone?”

Izuku scratches his head as Bakugou glares down at him with his red beady eyes. He wonders again what the League ever wanted with him. It can’t be to join their cause… he would never bow. He’d die fighting first. Some sort of publicity stunt? Maybe they were planning to publicly execute the winner of the Sports Festival to make some sort of statement?

Bakugou’s entire face twitches. Uh oh.

He explodes the dummy he’s attached to in a spectacular fireworks display, freeing himself from his bonds in the process.

The intercom dings. “Minus one point—”

“SHUT UP THERE’S STILL ENOUGH POINTS LEFT FOR ME TO WIN!” Bakugou bellows and aims a full blast at Izuku’s face.

Sero shrieks from his place on the ceiling, but Izuku doesn’t get the chance to check on him. He’s too busy getting the hell out of dodge. He’s forced to dance sideways with Bakugou coming at him from the front and a collapsing wall still dropping debris from the back.

“I JUST HAVE TO BEAT YOU!” Bakugou yells, propelling himself into Izuku’s space again. “‘CUZ THE REST OF YOUR SHITTY TEAM IS A BUNCH OF PUSHOVERS!”

Izuku grunts as he takes a glancing hit to the shoulder to avoid a knee to the stomach. He stumbles back, trying to tally up the remaining time. It won’t be much longer before they win by default.

“WHY WON’T YOU THROW A FUCKING PUNCH, DEKU?” Bakugou growls. “FUCKING FIGHT ME! STOP DODGING!”

Izuku keeps dodging. They’ve left the hanging dummies behind, so Izuku needs to focus all his attention on avoiding Bakugou again.

The boy is like a hurricane— unrelenting.

Izuku is left blinking, blindsided, when Bakugou suddenly backs up, propelling himself with explosions so he’s far away in an instant.

“FRY HIM YOU SHIT!”

Izuku turns. He’s backed up almost into Kaminari.

The thing is… Izuku actually has plenty of time to dodge. He’s really fast with Full Cowl on, especially with all the extra training he did over the summer. He doesn’t think Bakugou has fully realized how fast, especially since he was holding back to keep in sight range during their earlier chase. He’d have to basically jump right on top of Bakugou to do it, but Bakugou is something he can handle.

He’s close enough to see the whites of Kaminari’s eyes. They light up just a bit as he begins to spark, as the electricity arcs up from under his skin. If he gets hit, he’s down… and probably destined for a trip to Recovery Girl.

Izuku dives for Kaminari and grabs him by the hair, ripping him free from the ceiling and pulling him away with him.

Because… He sees Shouto come around the corner behind them the instant Kaminari lights up. He’d take the hit meant for Izuku.

He has a split second to regret everything, meeting Shouto’s widening eyes in the increasing light, before the pain hits.

Well, then. He blacks out for a second, then he’s on his back on the floor, twitching. “Ow.” He coughs. His mouth tastes like metal.

The intercom dings. “Minus one point for the hero team!” All Might says nervously over the speakers. “One point to the villain team!”

Izuku somehow manages to stumble to his feet. His heart is pounding too hard and offbeat. His vision swims. “Uh,” Izuku bounces clumsily off the wall and nearly trips over Kaminari, who is lying face down on the ground and making weird ‘wheeeey’ noises.

“Try to dodge now, Deku!”

Izuku can’t even see straight, but the fact that Bakugou sounds so smug is enough to have him swinging around on reflex.

Kaminari is underfoot, so he flips him into the air with a kick from Full Cowl. Wait— he should not have done that. That’s a classmate not a dummy! It’s a good thing he’s the villain in this scenario.

It’s also a good thing that Bakugou has great reflexes, because he drops his hands and catches Kaminari instead of blasting Izuku and Kaminari both.

Izuku sways, off balance, for a moment stymied by how to keep both feet on the ground. “Whoa,”

He presses a hand to his breast, wincing at the erratic beat of his heart. That’s probably bad.

“Izuku!”

Shouto is calling him. Where did he go?

When he looks around, he blinks blearily at the sight of Sero screaming wordlessly as he wraps Bakugou and Kaminari together. It’s reminiscent of the trap with the dummy they planned out earlier… it’s also not what he’s looking for.

Izuku is on the ground again. “Ow.”

“Izuku!” Oh. There’s Shouto. He's easy to spot since he's lighting up the place with the fire licking up his face.

“Hi,” Izuku grunts. “You know, having a heart attack isn’t nearly the most painful way to die.”

Shouto covers the hand over his breast with both his own. “Just— just breathe, Izuku.”

Izuku shuts his eyes, not wanting to see how terrified Shouto looks. He’ll fix that soon. “It’s, like, super anxiety inducing though.” Izuku husks. “I think my brain is totally freaking out.”

When his vision fades to black, he honestly expects to relive the last minute all over again. It’s how these things usually go.


 

“Clear!”

Izuku jolts up off the floor involuntarily, every muscle tense for a moment.

“Urgh,” Izuku says.

Soft fingers press at the artery under his jaw and over his chest. Not Shouto’s. Izuku thinks, and also— Where’s his shirt?

“I think it’s steady now.” Yaoyorozu says above him with a relieved sigh.

“Urgh,” Izuku says more insistently. He opens his eyes and finds both Yaoyorozu and Shouto looking down at him. “Why am I not fucking dead?”

Being alive hurts like a bitch.

“Izuku,” Shouto breathes his name like an answered prayer. He gently pets some of the curls out of his eyes. “D-don’t do that, you idiot.”

Yaoyorozu sniffles and wipes at her eyes with the arm still holding a defibrillator paddle. “I— I’m sorry. If I were faster—”

“Ugh.” Izuku winces and pushes himself up onto his elbows. His heart isn’t doing the death rhythm dance anymore, but he’s still got phantom pains in his entire chest cavity.

Shouto helps him the rest of the way into a sitting position, wedging Izuku’s shoulder against his chest and resting his overwarm palm over his heart. He doesn’t let Izuku go any further.

“Hey, hun, I’m fine.” Izuku rasps as he clumsily tries to gather his feet under himself. “Just a little— uh— how much time is left?”

Shouto glares at him while flushing bright red at the nickname. “Is that what you really want to think about in this moment? The stupid practice exercise?”

Izuku frowns as he spots Bakugou hanging from the ceiling a couple yards away from him, tied to Kaminari and wrapped up in so many layers of tape he looks like a butterfly trying to wiggle free from a cocoon. “Huh,” Sero is collapsed in a heap against the wall, sweating buckets with an exhausted grin on his face.

“Nevermind,” Izuku nearly knocks himself over wrapping one arm around Shouto’s waist and pulling him more firmly against his side. “Those two are taken care of and I got you.”

“Really,” Shouto blinks, nonplussed. “You think you’re in any shape to hold me captive?”

Izuku pouts. “You don’t find me captivating?”

Shouto scowls and looks heavenward, face red.

Izuku abruptly giggles in embarrassment, realizing he just successfully flirted. Having a boyfriend is fun.

Yaoyorozu reminds Izuku she’s there by interrupting their moment with a watery giggle.

“I— I’m sorry.” Yaoyorozu sniffles, wiping at her tears.

Izuku blinks, surprised, as she smiles through the tears, wide and pained and ecstatic.

That smile…

“I just… I’m so glad you’re alright. Can I just—” She abruptly lunges forward and wraps both Izuku and Shouto in a tight hug.

Izuku winces as his shoulder presses right into her cleavage where her costume is wide open. This is too much…

Thankfully, Yaoyorozu backs up after giving them a firm squeeze. She wipes at her eyes, still smiling. She laughs, a little self-deprecating. “Ah! This was way too nerve wracking for a practice exercise! You always make things a little too interesting, Midoriya.”

“Yeah, stop that.” Shouto grunts.

Izuku hums disinterestedly. He’s too busy rearranging his worldview.

The intercom dings. “Time’s up! Villain team wins with six points— but the heroes have negative three— so that’s a nine point lead!”

All Might leans around the corner with his microphone. “Good job, everyone!”

“Eh?” Izuku blinks. “When did you get there?”

“I’m here to take you to the nurse.” All Might says in a way that makes it a command, albeit a gentle one. “Everyone else back to the control room! Aizawa will be conducting the rest of class!”

Shouto doesn’t want to let him go. His fingers tighten around his shoulder and go ice cold as All Might approaches.

Izuku grins as All Might gently scoops him up and briefly catches Shouto’s hand as he’s pulled away, squeezing it for as long as he can.

Shouto squeezes back. “All Might-sensei, I can—”

“Back to class!” All Might cuts him off cheerily.

Izuku waves to him. “See ya later, hun!”

He has just a second to glimpse Shouto going bright red, and Yaoyorozu goodnaturedly elbowing him in the side, before All Might turns the corner and he can’t see them anymore.

Izuku hums happily. Shouto is cute. And Yaoyorozu… Izuku was wrong about her. It’s just a gut feeling he has now… but her emotions were too genuine. She’s not a traitor. If she really was trying to blow up the dorm… there’s a piece Izuku is missing.

Izuku tunes back into his current surroundings when All Might sighs unhappily. He tilts his head, finding that All Might is looking down at him with an expression he’s not used to seeing on his muscled form.

“Young Midoriya… we need to talk.”

Izuku grimaces. Oh damn.


 

He doesn't get a chance to have that talk with All Might just yet. Instead, once he's delivered to the nurse, Recovery Girl chases the Number One Hero out the door with angry words and a waving cane.

“You two are nothing but trouble!” Recovery Girl grumps. She slams the door behind All Might. “Honestly. You!”

Izuku cowers as Recovery Girl turns on him and points her cane at his face. “Take a nap before I knock you out myself!”

“Y-yes, ma’am.” Izuku pulls the cot covers up to his chin.

“Hmph,” Recovery Girl sighs. “Electrocution. What will you come up with next?”

“S-sorry, ma’am.”

“I said go to sleep!”

Izuku squeaks and hides under his pillow. “Yes, ma’am!”

Recovery Girl grumbles and covers him with an extra quilt.

Izuku pretends to be fast asleep.


 

When Izuku rolls over with a groan some unknowable time later, All Might is sitting at his bedside in his shrunken form.

“Ah!” Izuku bolts straight upright. “All Might!”

“Oh, good.” All Might gives his typical strained smile. “You’re awake.”

Izuku rubs at his eyes and glances around the nurse’s office. Recovery Girl has disappeared somewhere and golden afternoon light illuminates the space.

He’s slept for several hours by the looks of things.

“Are you feeling alright, young Midoriya?”

“Uh,” Izuku reflexively touches his breast to feel his heartbeat. “Yeah, I’m fine. Good, uh… good nap.”

“Good.” All Might breathes. He shifts in his chair, gangly ankles crossing and then uncrossing. “... Would you like something to drink?”

“Uh, sure.” Izuku accepts nervously. His throat feels pretty dry, but he’s always vaguely uncomfortable when All Might is at his most mundane. There’s just something about seeing his lifelong idol pour tea that’s a little surreal.

Instead of tea, All Might produces a box of orange juice. He fumbles the straw for a moment, failing on the first two tries to puncture the box.

“Um,” Izuku pipes up. “I can do that…”

“No, no,” All Might stabs the juice box again determinedly. “I can do it!”

All Might grins so wide when he finally succeeds Izuku can’t help but mirror the expression.

“Here you go!” He thrusts the juice box at him. “To keep your energy up!”

“Th-thanks.” Izuku averts his eyes as he takes a sip. He pulls a face at the biting flavor.

“Oh, is it bad?” All Might worries.

Izuku shivers. “N-no, I just, uh… I’m so hungry. And you know how stuff, like, tastes more intense when you’re hungry?” Izuku takes another sip, wincing less this time. “And orange juice is already so strong…”

“Oh! I see,” All Might nods. “Well, you missed lunch. It’s only understandable.”

Izuku hums wistfully around his straw, busy fantasizing about katsudon.

“So,” All Might starts up tentatively after a moment. “I won’t keep you long, of course.”

“Hm?”

All Might takes a deep breath in like he’s about to start talking, pauses, and then lets it out again. He wrings his hands so they look like two huge spiders trying to figure out how to hug.

Izuku pops his straw out of his mouth as the box starts making ugly sucking noises. “Is there something else?”

“Well,” All Might begins meaningfully.

“Mmhm?” Izuku prompts when All Might stops again.

“I was thinking, young Midoriya,” All Might clasps his fingers together tightly, thumbs rapidly twiddling. “With everything that’s been going on, I should reiterate that I’m always available to talk. About anything!” All Might twitches and starts rolling his palms together. “If you want to, of course! But, if you don’t want to talk to me, I was thinking, you should at least talk to someone.”

Izuku squints. “Talk about what?”

“Well,” All Might puts both his hands down on his knees in a visibly conscious effort to still them. “I understand I’ve been putting a lot of stress on you lately. With One for All and the villain attacks... Even before you discovered your… quirk… I, perhaps, was remiss in not thinking of this. You are very young and impressionable. It was an oversight for me, your mentor, to fail to tend to your mental as well as your physical wellbeing.”

Izuku squeezes his empty juice box, deforming it from it’s cubelike perfection. “What do you mean? You’ve, um— I wouldn’t ask— I’m grateful, you know, for everything you’ve done for me. I wouldn’t want to, um…” Izuku trails off. He doesn’t really know what he’s denying without more information.

All Might sighs. “I think, it would be best if someone more qualified than me were to discuss this with you, young Midoriya. It’s obvious you have much weighing on your mind.”

Izuku frowns. He doesn’t want to talk to anyone. “The only people who know about One for All are in this school or the police force and Quantum Immortality is known to even fewer, so—”

“Ah!” All Might waves his concerns away. “Don’t worry! I’ve already discussed this with the appropriate people.”

Izuku frowns harder.

“You’re right, of course, both your quirks are much better kept closely guarded secrets. Which is why I’ve arranged for you to speak with someone trusted by the school!”

Izuku considers for a moment. “... Is it Aizawa-sensei?” He likes Aizawa-sensei. He can be scary, but he is deeply practical in a way Izuku admires.

“No.” All Might says, a little line appearing between his brows.

Izuku goes right back to frowning. “Will it help my training?”

“Well,” All Might dithers. “No, but—”

Izuku scowls. “I don’t see the point.”

All Might waves his hands placatingly. “Young Midoriya! This is about your happiness! I just want you to have all the— ah— resources to live healthily.”

“I am happy.” Izuku declares stubbornly.

All Might winces.

“I am.” Izuku insists.

All Might sighs. “Young Midoriya, this morning after the fire alarm—”

“There was a bomb!” Izuku shuffles under his covers, debating flopping down in a huff like he would if he was arguing with his mother. He decides that would be too embarrassing and childish to do in front of All Might.

“I’ve been informed.” All Might says gently. “But camera evidence also shows that instead of going to sleep you spent four hours in the gym before sunrise.”

Izuku pouts, then immediately feels like a child, so he chews his lip instead. “I have to train. I have to get stronger.”

All Might sighs. He laces his fingers together and rests his chin on them. “I understand why you feel that way. But there are… healthier ways to deal with it.”

“I had a big breakfast.” Izuku reasons.

All Might sighs explosively. He hangs his head and rubs at his forehead. “I am not prepared for this…” he mutters.

Izuku hangs his head too, reflexively ashamed at All Might’s visible disappointment. “I’m sorry. I’ll get some more sleep tonight.”

It’s not like he let himself get over exhausted. He is well used to the particular soreness of a long workout and he has been too hyped to sleep much anyway.

“It’s not…” All Might continues tentatively. “Only about that.”

Izuku picks at some lint on the comforter over his lap.

All Might sighs after a minute. “I don’t want to force you, of course. But will you at least think about it?”

Izuku shrugs. He doesn’t feel quite right denying All Might anything, but… “Um, yeah, I’ll think about it.”

“Good, good.” All Might nods.

Privately, Izuku scowls at his lap. Talking about One for All and his own shit terrible quirk with some random person just isn’t something he’s interested in.

They lapse into silence for a full minute, both nervously looking at anything but each other.

“So!” All Might claps his hands suddenly, voice forcefully bright.

Izuku jumps. “Ah!”

“If I’m reading things right, you’ve scored a hot babe!” All Might gives him two thumbs up.

Izuku blinks. His brain is stuck trying to process those words coming out of All Might’s mouth.

“Er,” All Might relents after a moment. “Forgive me if I’m mistaken—”

Izuku’s brain finally jumps the tracks and gets out of that unfortunate loop of hearing All Might use slang over and over. “Oh!” He grins. “Technically, he’s both hot and cold!”

“Ah!” All Might recovers, mirroring his grin. “You’re right! My apologies!”

Izuku hums happily, thinking about Shouto. He hopes he’s not mad about losing in the practical. … Probably not.

“Good job!” All Might congratulates him. “I’m very proud!”

“Thanks!” Izuku all but squeals. All Might is proud of him! He should totally tell Shouto. He’d like another reason to stick it to Endeavor.

All Might smiles at him. “I am very happy to see that you’re bonding with your classmates.” He leans forward to say more quietly. “And, of course, I’m here if there’s anything… anything at all… that you’d like to talk about.”

Izuku pales. “Eh?”

All Might leans back and declares brightly, “You have my number!”

“Um,” Izuku blushes. Is All Might really saying… ? Wow. No. Izuku would die first… repeatedly. “O-okay, All Might.”

“Toshinori!”

“A-all Might.”

“Someday…” All Might mutters. He stands up. “Well! I’ve kept you long enough, young Midoriya. You have people waiting for you.”

“I do?” Izuku straightens up.

“And a special someone!”

Izuku can’t help it, he straightens up straighter. “I do!?” The way All Might says it, it sounds like a treat and if it’s who he thinks it is it is a treat.

All Might poofs into his muscled form and opens the door to the hospital wing. “He’s awake!” He declares to the hallway.

“Shouto!” Izuku cheers, even though Uraraka is the one standing directly in the doorway and Shouto is just a very recognizable head behind Iida’s shoulder.

“Deku!” Uraraka runs into the room and hugs him.

“Ack!” Izuku freezes as she squeezes him.

He blinks rapidly as half of class 1-A files into the room after her. That’s a lot of people!

“Dude!” Sero slaps him on the shoulder. “That was hardcore!”

“Hardcore.” Jirou echoes.

“I was thinking in the beginning,” Sero continues. “‘This guy is like a bunny rabbit wearing a villain costume. No way this is gonna work.’ But then you started monologuing to freaking Bakugou.”

“Sorry for almost killing you.” Kaminari tells him brightly. “But you pulled my hair first!”

“Oh,” Izuku scratches his head self consciously. “It’s okay. It was my fault for grabbing you… Oh! And I’m sorry for punting you!”

Kaminari’s eyes go as wide as saucers. “When did that happen?”

“You went wheeeeeey,” Jirou squeals at the decibel level of a piglet. “Funniest thing I’ve seen all week.”

Sero snickers.

“Dude,” Kaminari pulls up his shirt.

Izuku winces at the enormous bruise on his side.

“That explains so much.” He turns to Sero. “Dude! I got punted by Midoriya and lived!”

Sero slaps him on the shoulder. “Dude.” He answers emphatically.

Uraraka pokes Izuku viciously in the side. “Ugh! Deku! You scared all of us half to death!”

“Yes! What she said!” Iida gestures sharply. “You should be more careful! If this were a real life scenario you could have been seriously hurt!”

“Sorry, guys.” Izuku zeroes in on Shouto, who’s glaring at the ground and enduring Yaoyorozu repeatedly pushing him from behind with increasing force. He’s got a box in his hands.

Izuku leans around Uraraka to get a better look at what he’s holding. He chews on his lip. “Hi…”

Shouto startles and nearly loses his balance when Yaoyorozu pushes him again.

“Izuku…” Shouto blushes and looks at his box.

Izuku blushes, too. It’s a reflex. “Um, you’re okay, right? I didn’t see you here… but I didn’t get to see for sure…”

Shouto huffs. “I’m fine. Why are you worrying about me?”

Izuku fiddles sheepishly with his crooked hand. “It’s just my nature.”

Shouto rolls his eyes. Izuku grins. Shouto’s been acting more and more like himself today. He didn’t enjoy meek, quiet Shouto as much.

“Here,” he steps forward and thrusts the box into Izuku’s lap. It’s hot like he’s been heating it this whole time.

“Eh?”

Shouto looks away, a fierce blush high on his cheekbones. “I heard you slept through lunch and I know how you’re always hungry even on a good day. So, I got you some food.”

Izuku’s stomach grumbles. “Really?”

When he opens the box, he’s greeted by an extremely generous portion of katsudon, plus hard boiled eggs and grilled vegetables. Izuku immediately tears up. “Y-you’re so g-good to me.”

“And look,” Shouto points out. “These eggs are actually cooked and not heretical at all.”

“H-heretical?” Izuku chokes on a laugh.

“You heard me.”

Izuku giggles and picks up his chopsticks. He sticks half an egg in his mouth and says, “Lots of people eat raw eggs. It’s not abnormal.”

“Don’t speak with your mouth full.” Shouto reprimands him.

“Dude, that’s gross.” Sero informs him.

“Gross.” Uraraka agrees.

“I don’t understand how you could withstand the texture!” Iida gasps in horror.

Yaoyorozu makes a face while Jirou mimes gagging.

“I ate a raw egg on a dare once!” Kaminari volunteers.

Izuku slows his chewing to frown. That’s even less support than he was expecting.

“Eggs take very little time to cook.” Shouto reasons. “There’s never a reason to eat one raw.”

“And—” Iida waves his fists. “Salmonella!” He declares in a choked cry, visibly reigning himself in from saying more words.

“Is this what you’ve been thinking about all day?” Izuku wonders.

“No.” Shouto looks to the left. Definitely lying.

Izuku snorts. “You know, if you know so much about eggs, I guess you could just cook them for me…” He says slyly.

“Oh!” Uraraka pumps her fist. “Sneaky, Deku!”

Shouto huffs and brushes more of his hair into his face. It doesn’t hide the blush. “I can teach you how to cook eggs.”

“Oh, no,” Izuku shoves another egg in his mouth. “Far too much effort. I don’t see the point…”

Shouto narrows his eyes at him. “You’re being obtuse on purpose.”

Izuku smirks, proud of himself. “I just think… I’d rather eat things Shouto cooks for me!”

Uraraka gasps dramatically.

Shouto rolls his eyes and starts steaming.

Oh, yes. Izuku thinks. This is a fun game.

“... Fine.” Shouto relents. “But only because I like you.”

Oh no. Izuku turns as red as a tomato and nearly chokes on his food. Two can play at this game.

Chapter Text

“For detention you’ll be fixing all the stuff you destroyed.” Aizawa-sensei tells him tiredly. “So I don’t have to.”

Izuku picks up a tube of… something and looks at the sheet of brand new window glass that’s been delivered to their dorm living room. “But I don’t know how to install windows?”

“Look it up on the internet or something.” Aizawa-sensei turns away and shuffles over to the couch, entirely uninterested in helping him. “If you do it wrong I’ll just give you another detention.”

Izuku winces and looks hopefully at his friends. They’ve taken up residence on the other couch with their textbooks, but seem more interested in periodically jeering at him. They’re not here for emotional support, they’re here to ‘observe his penitence,’ as Iida put it.

Except Shouto. His boyfriend is a peach and actually studying instead of making fun of him.

“This is what you deserve!” Kirishima hollars at him as he walks through from the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear.

“Yeah!” Uraraka cheers, giggling with Tsuyu and Yaoyorozu.

Izuku sighs and pulls out his phone to try to find some informative youtube videos.

It doesn’t help him much but teach him a bit of vocabulary.

“No!” Uraraka scolds him from the couch several minutes later. “You have to take out the frame first, Deku!”

Izuku scrubs irritably at his face, where he’s already managed to smudge some caulking paste and it itches while it dries. “But I don’t know how to do that…”

“This is a learning experience, Midoriya! You must take these lessons with enthusiasm!” Iida gestures sharply.

Izuku scowls at his friends sitting comfortably on the couch. Even Aizawa-sensei is taking a nap, feet poking from over the armrest.

“If you know so much about it why don’t you just help me?”

Uraraka thrusts her chin up. “You must learn these lessons on your own, Deku!” She chops the air in an unusually cheerful imitation of Iida.

Izuku pouts. “You are all awful. Except Shouto.”

Shouto looks up from his algebra textbook, blinks at him, and looks back down again.

“Look at him. He’s so nice to me.” Izuku whines.

“Get back to work, Midoriya!” Yaoyorozu chokes on her giggles, obviously uncomfortable with mocking him but eager to join the fun. “It’s getting breezy in here!”

“Yeah!” Uraraka points at him accusingly. “All your fault!”

“All your fault.” Tsuyu picks up the cheer with a sardonic lilt.

Izuku slumps. “Fine, then. I’m gonna go clean the glass out of the garden. You guys can make fun of me without me.”

“I don’t like to assign blame,” Iida adjusts his glasses. “But considering that you were the one to break the window, who is at fault is clear!”

Izuku huffs and climbs out of the gaping hole in the wall he made that morning and shuffles off to hide in the shrubbery outside.

“Destruction of school property comes with consequences!” Iida declares loudly to his retreating back.

Sometimes having friends means being the subject of ridicule, good natured though it may be. Izuku understands that— he’s seen other people do it plenty— but he can only take so much.


 

Izuku is sighing dramatically and half-heartedly picking flecks of glass out of the damp mulch below the window when a shadow falls over him.

Crouched half-inside a rhododendron, he blinks up at the sun. It takes a minute for him to recognize the dark silhouette of Shinsou Hitoshi, summer evening sun shining through his purple hair.

“So, it’s true then,” Shinsou smirks at him, blinking slowly with bloodshot eyes. “All Might’s Golden Boy is a troublemaker.”

Izuku huffs. “I wasn’t trying to cause trouble… and that doesn’t have anything to do with All Might!”

The edges of Shinsou’s mouth twitch upwards. It’s a dangerous sort of smile.

Izuku is still squinting up into the sunlight, but he can’t blink.

He can’t move at all, in fact.

“You’re too easy.” Shinsou tells him.

Honestly, you’d have thought he’d learn that lesson the first time. A voice echoes in his head that isn’t his own. Izuku would twitch in surprise if he could.

“But you are All Might’s favorite.” Shinsou muses, looking down at him, blinking slowly like he wants to close his eyes for much longer than a moment.

Is he gonna break his fingers again? I don’t wanna see. Another voice says. Izuku makes an incoherent groaning sound around a jaw that won’t budge. It’s happening exactly like last time, with the ex-holders’ voices bouncing around his head like in an echo chamber.

Shinsou stops smirking suddenly. His eyes go flinty and the edges of his mouth turn down. “Tell me where All Might lives.” He orders.

Izuku grits his teeth, trying to rebel. “I don’t know.” Izuku’s traitorous mouth says.

“Tell me where All Might sleeps at night.” Shinsou tries again.

“I don’t know.” Izuku says.

Shinsou makes a frustrated noise.

What are you doing, kid? Break free! Izuku tugs on the fabric of One for All under his skin, until it feels like his very soul snaps taught in his chest. He just needs a moment to focus…

“Do you know anything about All Might’s whereabouts?” Shinsou’s voice is high and reedy with strain, teeth tight together.

Izuku growls around his villainous tongue. “Yes.”

Shinsou straightens up a little, eyes hopeful. “Tell me what you know.”

Izuku manages to curl his hand into a fist, entire arm shaking. “All Might teaches hero training from ten to twelve every weekday.”

Shinsou groans. “I mean outside of classes, you idiot!”

It’s not an order, so Izuku remains silent. He debates the merits of each of his fingers— there’s a good chance Recovery Girl will refuse to heal him, especially since he’s already been to her office that day.

Shinsou grits his teeth. “Do you know anything else about where All Might would be?”

Sometimes he sees All Might getting lunch with the teachers in the cafeteria, or walking across campus in the afternoon, but none of those are definites. “I don’t know.”

Shinsou groans. He turns away from Izuku and tugs at his hair. It’s even more wild and unkempt than usual, and maintains the shape of the hands he runs through it, leaving furrows of frustration across his scalp.

What’s wrong with this guy? A voice that isn’t Izuku’s wonders.

“Fuck dammit.” Shinsou says quietly, his shoulders slumping. He turns back to Izuku and carefully relaxes his stance.

Izuku is hit with a sense of deja vu as Shinsou perfectly echoes the exact posture and expression he had the moment Izuku originally spoke.

The mind control drops and Izuku finally blinks the sun out of his eyes.

“Heh,” Shinsou huffs, cool as a cucumber. “You’re a funny one, Mido—”

Scowling thunderously, Izuku rises from his crouch and grabs Shinsou by the collar, lifting him up off the ground one handed. “What,” Izuku hisses darkly. “Do you want with All Might?”

Shinsou’s purple eyes go wide, whites glinting orange in the afternoon light. “Uh,” He says eloquently. “Midoriya, what are you—”

Izuku shakes him harshly just once to shut him up. His arms flop with the movement helplessly. “Why do you want to know where he lives?”

Shinsou looks rapidly left and right, searching for an escape. “Y-you— you’re not supposed to remember—”

“I remember.” Izuku hisses. He leans into Shinsou’s face. “Both times.”

Shinsou is breathing rapidly, little terrified pants to match his huge eyes. “I— listen. I’m not— it’s cool, alright? I wasn’t going to hurt you—”

“You never would have been able to.” Izuku growls. “I could break out at any moment.” It’s a little lie, but Izuku is pissed.

“Okay, Midoriya, okay.” Shinsou tries to placate him, a desperate high pitch to his voice. “I didn’t mean anything by it, I swear!”

“Answer.” Izuku shakes him again. “My. Question. Or,” Izuku tilts his head, smiling poisonously sweet. “Do you think you’re the only one who gets to ask questions?”

“N-no, I mean.” Shinsou grabs at Izuku’s wrist when he shakes him again, trying to hold on. “I— All Might is, um, my idol, you know?”

“Uh huh.” Izuku intones skeptically.

“I just—” Shinsou looks to the left, making a frustrated noise. “He only teaches hero classes. I-I just thought, if I could meet him— I mean. How do they expect anyone to catch up to the A class anyway? You guys get all the training! It doesn’t even matter that they say it’s possible to move up, it’s not actually possible. We can’t catch up! N-not unless you have the money for extra training, but if you have money you would have already had that training before the goddamn entrance exam—” Shinsou cuts himself off abruptly, scowling.

Izuku looks at him consideringly. The bitterness he saw in him during the Sports Festival is still there it seems. He hasn’t thought much about Shinsou since then, but it was perhaps arrogant of him to think one comment on the battlefield would turn around his outlook on life. Not everyone is Todoroki Shouto, after all...

“Didn’t you get some nice offers after the festival?” Izuku wonders. “With a strong quirk like yours…”

Shinsou scoffs, looking at the ground over Izuku’s wrist. “Thanks for the demonstration on how fucking fallible my quirk is, by the way.” Shinsou seems to realize how vitriolic his tone is and his current position after a second. He glances at Izuku fearfully, continuing in a more submissive voice. “I mean… I still don’t understand how you broke free, but that’s all anyone remembered, anyway.”

Izuku frowns. After a moment, he gently sets Shinsou back down on the ground.

In truth… Izuku has sympathized with Shinsou from the beginning. They are cut from the same cloth. It wouldn’t take much to have changed for Izuku to end up in his position. “So you are looking for training?”

Shinsou seems bewildered by the ground under his feet. He blinks incredulously at Izuku for a moment. “Uh,”

Now, a drive to train oneself to get stronger… that’s something Izuku can more than sympathize with. “I can help you!”

Shinsou blinks. He shuffles and looks to the left. “You can?”

“Yeah!” Izuku brightens up at the thought. “I can train you!”

Shinsou’s eyes shutter so abruptly, Izuku doesn’t notice how they were starting to light up until they go dark again. “Oh.”

“I do katas and weights in the morning.” Izuku gushes, hoping that Shinsou will take his offer. He honestly wants to help. “Then I run with Iida— you should join! Then school, obviously, but I do some basic exercises in the courtyard during lunch! We can meet there! And then after school—”

“Okay.” Shinsou says flatly. “Cool.”

“So, you’ll come?” Izuku asks.

“Yeah, sure.” Shinsou looks at the ground. “You can count on me.” His voice is dull and heavy.

Izuku bites his lip. He doesn’t look very enthusiastic. Then again, that’s the face most of his friends make when he describes his workout regimen to them. “Okay!” He says brightly. “Meet me in the gym before sunrise!”

Shinsou blinks at him incredulously. “Are you serious?”

Izuku pumps his fists. “Training is both serious and fun! Nowhere else can you prepare for your future while punching things!”

Shinsou rolls his eyes. “Right, of course.”


 

Izuku wakes up in a cold sweat with the taste of ash on his tongue and tears cooling on his face.

His heart is going incongruously fast for his surroundings, lain on his bed in his dorm alone, tangled in his own sweaty sheets. Izuku swallows with a dry mouth and kicks himself free, breath still stuttering from a dream he barely remembers.

The others— his friends—

He’s out on the balcony before he registers he even intends to move.

He needs to see— just to check—

Izuku doesn’t know where everyone is. He regrets not paying more attention when Aizawa-sensei explained the floorplan. In the state he’s in, he ends up bouncing around on the balconies in the dark, searching frantically through drawn curtains and silence.

At least he has the wherewithal not to break random doors down. He is vaguely aware that he’s already irrational and definitely doesn’t need more detentions.

The first actual sign of life is an open balcony door, spilling dim light and soft music into the night.

Tokoyami startles at him when Izuku alights on his railing, a pentagram drawn on a cloth on the floor in front of him with shiny river stones arranged on it.

“Midoriya,” Tokoyami greets, eyes shifting uncomfortably to the side as he pushes his stones out of view. “... What are you—”

“Alive,” Izuku gruffs at him, not in a mindset capable of conversation.

He jumps to the next balcony.

Why do so many people close their doors at night? Izuku laments. The air is still summer-warm at night. There’s no reason not to sleep with the breeze.

The next light he finds is through a closed balcony door with the curtains wide open.

Izuku freezes, perplexed. Kaachan is… sitting in Kirishima’s lap? Kirishima must hear him from inside, because he turns his head and turns bright red when their eyes meet.

Bakugou doesn’t move. He’s asleep?

“Izuku!”

Izuku startles and needs to spend the next couple seconds gripping the railing, balanced precariously as he is. That was close.

“Izuku,” the whisper comes again more gently.

Izuku looks up. Shouto is leant over the railing directly above him.

He shivers as a sudden breeze sticks his sweat-damp t-shirt to his back. Shouto is alive. Shouto is safe.

“Tokoyami texted me.” Shouto yawns. “Said something about how you had ‘looked too deeply into the void.’”

Izuku blinks, the railing creaking under his grip.

Shouto’s eyes soften as he looks down at him. “Come up here.” He coaxes.

Izuku doesn’t need to be told twice. He leaps the last distance and grabs the railing, hoisting himself up and over, not stopping until he has Shouto between his palms.

“Hey,” Shouto murmurs, a little startled as Izuku pulls him forward.

Shouto’s wrapped in that blue yukata. It feels soft and worn thin under Izuku’s hands, enough that he can count Shouto’s ribs through it.

He checks carefully, looking for bloody handprints where he logically knows there aren’t, but knowing by touch and sight seems so much more real than his thoughts.

“Hey,” Shouto tries again, more softly than before. He tentatively steps closer and wraps his arms around Izuku’s neck, warm fingers sliding into the hair at the nape of his neck. “What’s wrong?”

Izuku shudders and fists his hands in the cloth at Shouto’s sides. “Nothing.” He croaks.

“Hm,” Shouto doesn’t believe him. He slides his arms down around Izuku’s shoulders, forcing him further into his embrace.

Izuku swallows harshly and lets go of Shouto’s ribcage so he can pull him in tight, arms wrapped around him.

Shouto lets him, fingers stroking through the short curls at his nape. Izuku worries the soft yukata between his fingers, rolling it back and forth until he’s sure it’s real.

Alive— Everyone is safe. Izuku, logically, is aware that he’s acting like an idiot. He doesn’t even remember what he dreamed about, but the feelings he woke up with are familiar.

He’s had this reaction before— ever since the training camp, but it was a little easier there since every time he startled awake all the people he needed to see were arrayed around him on their futons and Shouto was always right there, hand usually still grasped in his own where they fell asleep.

Once he had been home it had been easier still to distance those events from his mind with the physical distance, but the events of the day before must have brought everything back afresh.

It takes some unknowable amount of time, but eventually Izuku feels more present in his skin. He shivers, actually from the cold of the cooling sweat on his skin, and not with wild tension.

“Hey,” Shouto calls him gently, still stroking his hair. “Ready to talk?”

“Mm,” Izuku swallows and nuzzles into Shouto’s collarbone. It’s covered by the soft cotton yukata that he definitely likes the feel of.

Shouto warms up on one side when Izuku shivers again.

“You’re so nice.” Izuku tells him. He freezes and lifts his head, belatedly contrite. “Oh no, I woke you up again. I’m sorry!”

Shouto never looks upset in these circumstances, merely concerned. “I told you I sleep lightly. Especially in unfamiliar places… I don’t mind.”

Izuku whines and hunches his shoulders, pulling Shouto more firmly against his chest. “You’re so nice.”

Shouto runs his warm hand through Izuku’s hair again. “Come inside? My futon is big enough for us both.”

“Okay,” Izuku agrees immediately because he’s cold and Shouto is already pulling at him, but— “W-wait— I don’t wanna— um,” he blushes as Shouto drags him in off the balcony and shuts the sliding door. “Isn’t that, um— we could get in trouble?”

Shouto blushes at him with an exasperated look. It seems he only just realized the implications himself. “Only sleeping, Izuku!” He looks abashedly off to the side. “I know you won’t unless I’m there, so…”

“Oh.” Izuku shuffles, one hand still gripping the back of Shouto’s yukata. “Okay…”

He stops abruptly, forcing Shouto to halt in his attempt to continue dragging him into the room. He gazes in amazement around the dimly lit space, noting the tatami flooring and low-riding, traditional furniture. “Shouto, did you do this all yourself?”

Shouto sighs. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Wow!” Izuku breathes. “It’s like you remodeled the whole place!”

“I did.” Shouto puffs hair out of his face, faintly amused.

“You’re such a hard worker!” Izuku gushes.

Shouto blushes bright red and looks down. “C-c’mon, lie down already. It’s past three in the morning and we both need sleep.”

Izuku grins and tries not to get embarrassed as he climbs under the rumpled quilt Shouto apparently tossed aside in his earlier haste to get up.

Shouto climbs in next to him. Their shoulders bump as they both lie on the one pillow.

Izuku turns bright red as their legs tangle awkwardly and he learns that the toes of Shouto’s left foot are searingly hot and the ones on his right are way too cold, but he shoves them both against Izuku’s calves anyway.

This is... Izuku gulps and pulls the quilt up to his chin. Just sleeping!

“You sleep in that yukata?” He blurts suddenly and unnecessarily.

“Hm,” Shouto says. “It’s comfortable.”

Pajamas! Izuku realizes with heightened alarm. That’s his pajamas!

Apparently this is the official greenlight for further conversation, because Shouto then turns on his side and says to him, “Do I give you a feeling of peace?”

“Eh?” Izuku squeaks. He turns his head and burns when their noses brush. “I— um— what?”

Shouto’s eyes shift to the side, blurry as they are from such a close vantage point. He blushes as well. “Those recordings Yaoyorozu had… they were real?”

Izuku sobers, remembering. “Yeah…”

Shouto chews on his bottom lip. “And you meant what you said?”

“Every word.” Izuku blinks with easy honesty. That particular embarrassment isn’t worth reviving... he meant it too much, plus the only one here is Shouto now and he wouldn’t mock him for it.

Shouto turns over and hides his face in the pillow, bumping shoulders with Izuku. He mumbles something Izuku can’t hear.

“What was that?”

Shouto sighs gustily and lifts his head. “I don't understand what I did to deserve you.”

Izuku squawks. “What?” For Shouto to think such a thing…

Shouto scowls. “I'm not… You were talking like what you wanted was something soothing and—” He scrubs angrily at his sleep mussed hair. “And up— uplifting, or something. But I'm not any of those things.”

Izuku bites his lip on a snort. It’s a bit silly for Shouto to think so little of himself when his perfection is so obvious. Izuku will disabuse him of such notions eventually; these things take time.

Shouto glares at him.

“Well, you can’t reduce a person to a-to a, um, a warm spring day under a blossoming cherry tree.” Izuku reasons gently, floundering a little for a reasonable way to explain away Shouto’s insecurity. “That’s just one of the feelings you give me.”

“What does that even mean?” Shouto grumbles. His brow furrows, tense with uneasy vulnerability.

“Dunno,” Izuku says. “What do I mean to you?”

Shouto hides his face in the pillow again. “You can't even compare—” he tells him, muffled. “You're kind and sweet and smart and strong— and at least you know what you're doing.”

Izuku flushes at all the compliments but this last admission has him shooting upwards. “You think I know what I'm doing!?”

Shouto looks up at him, suspicious at the shrill tone. “Well, you're the one that asked me out, weren't you?”

“Well, I— that's not—” Izuku splutters and balances on one elbow so he can scratch furiously at his head. “I just asked you out, because I couldn't not ask you out!”

“Exactly,” Shouto grumps. “You're way ahead of me. I…” Shouto blushes furiously and picks at his sleeve. “I've been seriously in l— crushing— on you since…” Shouto trails off to nibble on his lip. “If you hadn’t asked first… I don’t think I would have ever had the courage…”

Izuku is intrigued. He drops back onto the pillow so he can peer up at his boyfriend. “Really? How long have you liked me?”

Shouto groans and hides his face. “Izuku…”

Izuku grins. He pokes Shouto in the ribs under the quilt. “Shouto,”

“Ugh,” Shouto peeks at him from between his fingers. “Since that time you broke all your bones—”

“Eh? Which time?” Izuku blinks and starts cataloguing a long list of possible events in a mumble.

Shouto snorts at him and mutters. “That’s really not the sort of answer you should have… since the first time, Izuku.”

Izuku thinks about it for a minute. “As early as the beginning of school?” He wonders incredulously. “Is this— uh, love at first sight?”

Shouto covers his eyes and tries to bite his own grin away. “N-no, obviously not. The— the Sports Festival.”

“The Sports Festival?” Izuku repeats in wonder.

Shouto blushes and refuses to look at him.

Izuku props himself up on his elbow. “That long? Wow.” Izuku thinks about it for a moment, frowning. “What did I do? Looking back, I was kinda… unattractive… ?”

“Unattractive.” Shouto repeats flatly. He sighs. “You really can’t figure it out for yourself?”

Izuku winces. “Um, I mean, even though you came by to thank me and stuff after our fight I thought you were kinda mad at me for a while after that. You never talked in the group chat and you were always staring at me— Oh.”

Izuku ducks sheepishly as he realizes the answer to his own question. “You weren’t mad staring…”

Shouto blushes harder and rolls his eyes. “No. I’ve never been angry with you. Especially not for your actions that day.”

Shouto sighs and picks at the frayed edge of his sleeve. “I was… smitten.” Shouto smiles a little curl of a smile, pure and soft in a way that Izuku wants to touch. “You didn’t owe me anything. Didn’t even know me. But you still—” He ducks his head bashfully. “And I— you know, I’ve told people about—” Shouto grits his teeth. “Endeavor. I’ve told adults. School counselors and teachers. A policeman once. I— I’ve been telling people for years.”

“What?” Izuku murmurs breathlessly, shell shocked.

Shouto chokes a broken little laugh and Izuku’s heart clenches. “Mom always said it’s good to talk about things. Bottling things up was a sure path to— to becoming Endeavor, basically.” Shouto sighs and looks at Izuku. “No one’s ever believed me before.”

“What?” Izuku breathes in alarm.

Shouto grimaces. “Who would believe that of Endeavor, the great Number Two Hero, you know? But— I just want you to understand. When I told you about all that— I never believed that you would believe me. It wasn’t a ploy to get you to pity me or curry favor before the fight—”

“No.” Izuku placates immediately. “Never, Shouto—”

“It was just me being selfish. I wanted to say it.” Shouto continues. “Your response was irrelevant to me, because I never expected you to have one that mattered.”

Izuku swallows harshly, tears gathering in his eyes. “Shouto, I never doubted you for a second.”

His boyfriend ducks his eyes, grinning shyly. “I— I know. And then you—” Shouto brushes more of his hair into his face to hide his downcast eyes. “Instead of ignoring me, you decided to wage psychological warfare with me and win.”

“I-I wouldn’t call it that!” Izuku splutters.

“Isn’t it though?” Shouto smiles. “You tore down every wall I built by force, both metaphorically and literally, and razed my bullshit to the ground.”

Izuku blushes and rubs his neck sheepishly. “S-sorry?”

“No.” Shouto denies. “I needed it. Truthfully, I think ever since Endeavor locked my mother away I’ve been waiting for someone like you to come along and remind me… what it’s like to be believed in. It was your unwavering faith in me that made me look to my own future for the first time. And that’s when I fell in l—” Shouto goes bright red and clams up for a second, steaming slightly. “... like with you.” He finishes in a strained voice.

Izuku sniffles. “Sh-shouto,” he sobs and pulls his boyfriend down under his chin so he can wrap him up tight. “Th-that’s the most b-beautiful thing a-anyone’s ever s-said to me!”

Shouto hugs him back, arms tight around his ribs and one a little too warm.

“So, you see,” Shouto murmurs into his neck. “I never would have made any progress on my own…”

Izuku sniffs wetly. “I h-had no idea.”

Shouto is quiet for a moment, letting Izuku’s tears run their course. “... Izuku,”

“M-mhm?” Izuku wipes at his face with the back of his hand, trying not to get the pillow too damp.

“How long has it been for you?” Shouto asks hesitantly.

“Um,” Izuku swallows harshly and wills himself to stop leaking. He clears his throat roughly. “You mean since I knew I liked you?”

Shouto hides more firmly against his neck. “... Yes.”

Izuku bites this lip. Since he learned that Shouto only ever thought of Izuku in his moment of death— that his last action was always an attempt at comfort. Since he learned that in his darkest moments, Shouto still attempted to shine.

“S-since the training camp.” Izuku answers as honestly as he can.

Shouto leans back suddenly to blink at him. “The training camp… ? But that’s… You asked me out on the first day.”

Izuku sniffles. “Y-yeah.”

Shouto stares at him with wide eyes for a moment. “Izuku…” he murmurs. He shakes his head. “That really settles it… I can never catch up to you.”

“W-what?” Izuku reels. “Th-that’s not true!”

Shouto huffs and flops down on his back. “You’re so brave… I can never hope to match you.”

“B-bravery has nothing to do with it!” Izuku denies. “Th-there’s no point in denying your feelings, anyway, there’s nothing brave about acting on them!”

“That you can say things like that so simply,” Shouto muses. “I admire that, but I cannot emulate such a difficult philosophy.”

“I-it’s not so hard…” Izuku lies down face first in the pillow. “I just wanted to be close to you, so I did what was needed…”

Shouto sighs.

Izuku pops his head back up to stare at such a… lovelorn sound.

Shouto smiles at him fondly. “You really are amazing, Izuku.”

Izuku blushes so hard he wonders if he’ll catch on fire. “Y-you too, Shouto.”

Shouto bites his lip nervously as he looks up at him. “So, what did I do to make you notice me at the training camp?” Shouto blushes and abruptly turns on his side facing Izuku, eyes downcast. “I mean… that first day, you were in the infirmary most of the time…”

“Uh,” Izuku winces and tugs on his own hair. He doesn’t want to explain that he died first for such knowledge. Somehow he thinks that wouldn’t be very romantic. “Y-you were just being you, I guess. It was more… I just realized myself?”

“Realized what?” Shouto asks shyly.

Izuku squirms, blushing. “The, um, influence you have on me.”

“Influence.” Shouto repeats, prompting him to continue.

Izuku groans in embarrassment and hides his face in his hands. “Oh god— I just— I love it when you smile at me. You don’t smile too often or too big, but— I feel like I can do anything! And—” Izuku swallows. “If we’re going to mention the Sports Festival debacle—”

“I wouldn’t say it was a debacle.” Shouto reasons. He sounds like he’s smiling that cute soft little smile.

Izuku peeks just in case he misses it. Yes, there it is. “When I realized the kind of life you must have led, but you still wanted to be a hero for your own reasons. You wanted to help people and…” Izuku blushes and mutters. “God, that moment your fire ignited for the first time…”

Izuku squirms for a reason that isn’t embarrassment. Hm. Maybe he’s had an eye for Shouto for longer than he thought…

Izuku swallows and resolves to continue as steadily as he can. “I saw something so beautiful. The birth of a true hero…”

God, that’s sappy. Izuku covers his mouth with his hand. “Um,” he mumbles around his fingers. “And, um— I just, everytime I see you striving towards your goal— of, of being a better person and hero and finding happiness in spite of so much hardship— it inspires me to be better too, you know?”

Izuku ducks his head and says, “S-so, don’t call me b-brave when you’re the b-bravest person I know. I really a-admire you.”

“Izuku,” Shouto calls gently.

Izuku looks up and is instantly mesmerized by Shouto’s soft, watery eyes.

Shouto smiles openly. Izuku grins back, helplessly smitten.

“We can be brave together.” Shouto tells him, eyes full of so much affection Izuku imagines he can see rainbows in his peripheral vision.

Izuku, as if magnetized, leans down to bump their foreheads together. “Okay,” he whispers breathlessly.

He can feel the temperature difference between the left and right side of his forehead, with one getting hotter by the moment.

“Izuku,” Shouto murmurs and bumps their noses together.

“Sh-shouto,” Izuku stutters. They’re gonna kiss. They’re gonna kiss. Holy shit!

Shouto tilts his head, leaning up towards him, and their lips brush as lightly as a spring breeze—

“OW! FUCK!” Izuku springs back, instinctively activating Full Cowl so he ends up launching himself hard enough to hit his head on the ceiling. He tumbles back down onto the tatami with a groan.

“I’m sorry!” Shouto panics with his head aflame. “I’m sorry! I’m so sorry!”

“I’m okay. It’s fine!” Izuku pokes at his mouth. He’s definitely a little burned, but he was fast enough that it is little more than a light scalding. “I overreacted a little, so I hurt myself more than anything.”

“I burned you.” Shouto is slowly frosting over on his right side, despite the fact that he’s still on fire. He looks like he just accidently beheaded twenty children with how broken he looks.

“It’s fine!” Izuku kneels back down so he can show him. “Look! It’s nothing!”

Shouto’s quirk subsides after a couple moments of frantic examination. “Your sense of pain is not to be trusted.” He grumbles and gently presses a cold hand against his face. “I-I have burn creme in the bathroom.”

“I'm fine!” Izuku placates to deaf ears as Shouto drags him up and into the tiny closet space that is their personal bathrooms.

“Shouto…” Izuku whines as his boyfriend produces a first aid kit from the cabinet and gently dabs his face with minty-feeling paste.

Shouto’s mouth is twisted down in a scowl and he refuses to look him in the eye.

“It was an accident.” Izuku reasons. “I don't blame you.”

“I can blame myself just fine.” Shouto huffs, tone clipped and tight.

“Shouto…” Izuku whines. He makes a grab for his boyfriend's ribs but Shouto dodges out of his hands.

“I've kept you up long enough. We should go to sleep.” Shouto grumbles. He turns his back on Izuku and climbs back into his futon.

Izuku sighs and climbs in right after him.

Shouto tenses up when he wiggles one arm under his waist and wraps the other around him so he can pull his back into his chest, forcefully spooning his sulking boyfriend.

“Y-you can go back to your room.” Shouto huffs as he pulls the quilt up over them. “You'll probably sleep better.”

“I won't.” Izuku stubbornly nuzzles the back of his neck.

Shouto sighs. “I'm sorry I ruined it.”

“Not ruined.” Izuku yawns suddenly. “You're so comfy. I've never spooned someone before this is great.”

Shouto snorts and rubs one palm over his forearm. “You're too forgiving…”

“Well, fine then.” Izuku snarks. “I don't forgive you anymore, but I'm still not letting go.”

Shouto snorts and finally relaxes against him, going as loose as a cat in the sun. “You're so stubborn.”

Izuku presses his face against the back of his neck. He closes his eyes and starts to drift.

Shouto squeezes his wrists, both hands holding onto him as tightly as Izuku is hugging him.

“Izuku?”

Izuku hums incoherently, already half asleep.

Shouto sighs. “... Goodnight.”


 

Izuku wakes up to a knee in the stomach.

“Mmrf,” he tells Shouto as his boyfriend rolls over and knees him again.

“You've got too much leg, hun.” Izuku mumbles nonsensically.

He lifts his head to see that Shouto hasn't woken up at all and is curled up face down in his armpit.

Izuku huffs and strokes a hand over the thigh draped over his hips. The yukata has ridden up and warm skin slides under his palm, sticky with sleep—

Izuku squeaks and miraculously doesn't wake Shouto up when he literally flips out of the bed in panic.

Izuku blushes as he carefully rearranges the quilt over his slightly underdressed boyfriend and forces himself to imagine All Might wearing a chicken costume and a disappointed expression.

It does the trick and Shouto doesn’t even stir.

Izuku sighs with relief. That was close…

He resists the urge to touch his innocent sleeping boyfriend again and checks the time instead.

It's about the time he usually gets up anyway. Izuku tilts his head and stares at how the gray pre-dawn light makes the edges of Shouto’s face look softer than usual.

Izuku stands up suddenly. He forgot about Shinsou!

Giving Shouto a quick goodbye pat, Izuku sneaks outside onto the balcony and takes a swan dive over the railing.

The cool morning air feels nice for the couple seconds it presses against his face before he snags the edge of his own balcony railing and flips himself up and over.

When Izuku finally gets down to the gym, he's the only one there.

He sighs in relief and begins his stretches, running through the potential exercises he’ll start Shinsou on.

“Not much muscle definition.” Izuku mutters. “We’ll have to start with that. I wonder how flexible he is…”

“You're here again.” Aizawa-sensei notes flatly.

“Ah!” Izuku jumps. “Aizawa-sensei! You're here.”

Aizawa-sensei looks as unimpressed as usual. He's dressed in his typical drab clothing but his capture weapon is missing and his hair is pulled back in the messiest bun Izuku has ever seen. “Do you know how many silent alarms you tripped when you decided to use the outside of the building like a jungle gym last night?”

“Uhh…” Izuku shuffles nervously.

“And again. Right now.” Aizawa-sensei’s eye twitches. “One might think you're allergic to stairs.”

“Um,” Izuku wrings his hands, smiling sheepishly. “I'm sorry! I didn't know it would disturb anybody.”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “It did. Namely me. You're a handful, Midoriya. Honestly, when I agreed to be oncall for the 1-A dorm I was expecting you to be my least problematic student…”

“You're oncall… ?” Izuku winces.

“Only the first week of every month, thankfully. U.A. is serious about security. Next week you'll be waking up All Might.”

Izuku hunches his shoulders. He really doesn't want to cause All Might trouble!

“So, you can see my dilemma.” Aizawa-sensei notes.

“I didn't mean to wake you up! I swear! I'll use the stairs from now on!”

Aizawa-sensei scratches his chin. “It's too much effort to punish you.” He sighs. “Not when someone else can do it later.”

“Uh…” Aizawa-sensei is a little lazy… “Thanks?”

Aizawa-sensei smiles rarely but when he does it's too wide and slightly unhinged.

Izuku shivers.

“Anyway, Midoriya,” Aizawa-sensei continues in an unusually friendly tone. “I see you've decided to ignore your health and spend another godawful morning giving your poor babysitters more work.”

“Uh…” Izuku backs up a step.

“If I'm not mistaken, All Might was supposed to advise you against this course yesterday…” Aizawa-sensei muses, still smiling creepily.

Izuku shrinks sheepishly and clenches his fists. “Um, forgive me, but I can't just stop my training! I need to get stronger!”

Aizawa-sensei chuckles darkly. “I'm not going to stop you.”

“Eh?”

“No.” Aizawa-sensei grins. “You're too stubborn for an intervention. The only option therefore is…” He leans down into Izuku's face, close enough that Izuku has to lean backwards. “To help you, isn't it?”

“Uh,” Izuku hedges nervously. “Th-that would be very kind of you?”

“Maybe.” Aizawa-sensei leans back up. “This is just me killing two birds with one stone. How about it, Midoriya, up for a spar?”

Izuku gulps. Normally he'd never pass up a chance for more training, especially with a pro hero... “Um,” But he can't pass up an opportunity to get stronger! “Th-that would be really great, Aizawa-sensei! Thank you so much!”

“Good. Oh, and Midoriya, you better come at me with the intent to kill.” Aizawa-sensei narrows his eyes at him. “Because I certainly will. You'll just get right up again anyway, right?”

“E-eh!?”

Izuku screeches and dives under a sudden roundhouse kick aimed at his skull.

“Come here, Midoriya,” Aizawa-sensei leers. “Let me teach you a lesson.”


 

“Detention.” Aizawa-sensei declares when he finally calls a halt to their 'training.’ “For destruction of school property. That's two strikes, Midoriya.”

Izuku wheezes and slips back on the mats again. He's so slick with sweat he can't even get a decent grip on the floor. “B-but that wasn't my f-fault!”

“Really?” Aizawa-sensei scratches his chin in mock thought. “It wasn't my student that threw that seven hundred pound weight machine at me?” Aizawa-sensei nods knowingly. “You're right, of course, it must have been All Might.”

Izuku whines in despair. “I had to! I didn't wanna die, Aizawa-sensei!”

“Hmph,” Aizawa-sensei offers him a hand. “Of course I would never harm a student. I don't know why you think I would.”

Izuku gapes. His outrage revives him enough that he can grab his sensei's hand and pull himself to his feet. “A-a logical ruse! Aizawa-sensei, that's cruel!”

“Heh,” Aizawa-sensei pats him condescendingly on the head. “Well, didn't you learn something, Midoriya?”

Izuku pouts. “Yeah,” he mutters darkly. “Aizawa-sensei is not to be trusted…”

Aizawa-sensei snorts. “Well, I learned something too, Midoriya. So, we both gained something, at least.”

Aizawa-sensei's hand remains resting gently on his head. “You don't want to die after all, huh?”

Izuku scowls. “Of course I don't! Dying sucks!”

“Good.” Aizawa-sensei ruffles his hair and lets him go. “Oh, and Midoriya,”

Izuku looks up curiously.

“What All Might spoke to you about yesterday, about talking to someone…”

Izuku nods hesitantly.

“You'll think deeply on it, won't you?”

Izuku shuffles sheepishly. “Um, I will, Aizawa-sensei…”

“Good. You're a smart kid. I know you'll come to the right decision.”

Izuku winces. Aizawa-sensei has a way of saying compliments like they are threats.

“Heh,” Aizawa-sensei gives him one more head pat. “See you in class, Midoriya.”

“S-see you, Aizawa-sensei!”

Izuku takes a couple minutes climbing the stairs. His pain tolerance is pretty high, but even he can’t power through legs that are genuinely jelly.

“Aw,” Izuku whines when he finally makes it to the kitchen to find Shouto already there. “You’re up already.” Izuku puffs and stumbles onto one of the stools at the kitchen island. He only manages to get one leg up, but he can plant his face on the counter to keep himself from falling over, so it somewhat works. “I was gonna make your tea for you. I had a plan…”

Shouto slams a frying pan into the sink with a snarl. “And I’d have your breakfast ready if Bakugou would stop ruining it.”

“Fuck off, Half-and-half!” Bakugou snatches the new frying pan Shouto tries to pull out of the cupboard. “You’re the fucktard ruining shit!”

Whoa, okay. Groaning, Izuku lifts his head and takes a proper look at the situation.

He watches, bemused, as Shouto clenches his fists, too proud to snatch the frying pan back like they’re a couple of toddlers fighting over a firetruck.

Izuku frowns. Years of hard earned knowledge has instilled in him a basic reflex for avoiding Bakugou and the… situations he creates with extreme prejudice. He hasn’t always respected that dogma, because at the heart of Izuku is a basic inability to leave well enough alone, but it’s worked somewhat for the last couple years.

But… Bakugou is messing with his boyfriend. Izuku definitely can’t leave that alone.

Izuku struggles back into a standing position as Bakugou angrily rants over the stove, hip-checking Shouto away when he tries to close in.

“Fucking idiot don’t know FUCKING SHIT. Half-and-half moron trying to poison fucking SHITTY DEKU. He’d probably eat it anyway that FATASS NERD.”

“I don’t even know why you care.” Shouto snipes back. He’s just as worked up as Bakugou, but capable of moderating his own emotions. Izuku can still spot how he shakes a little with suppressed rage and clenches his fists periodically. “Besides, even an imperfectly cooked egg is better than an uncooked one.”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP.” Bakugou screeches.

Izuku flinches in alarm as Bakugou explodes a little too close to the burners. In hindsight, a gas stove in a U.A. dorm is a terrible idea. He grabs the back of Shouto’s yukata in preparation to throw him, but thankfully nothing more dangerous ignites than Mr. Explodo Kills.

“You ABSOLUTE FUCKWIT, you trying to dehydrate the eggs or someshit, you IDIOTSTAIN. You can’t turn the heat up high on eggs it turns them to SHITBRICK RUBBER, you SECOND RATE BETTY CROCKER.”

“Uh,” Izuku interjects hesitantly. He pets tentatively at Shouto’s back. “K-kacchan, please don’t talk to Shouto like that.”

“FUCK OFF, DEKU, THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU.”

“I’m fine.” Shouto hisses at him.

Well, okay then. Izuku mentally shrugs and starts rubbing a big circle between Shouto’s shoulder blades. Figures Shouto is the kind of guy that would prefer to fight his own battles. Izuku can play the role of moral support— at least he’s good at that.

“And ANOTHER THING,” Bakugou continues, aggressively attacking the eggs over the stove with a spatula. “You don’t fucking SALT EGGS while they’re FUCKING COOKING, idiot-brain. Eggs are full of fucking WATER and AMINO ACIDS you can’t FUCKING ADD SALT.”

“There’s no discernable difference from when you add salt.” Shouto says, significantly calmer and less shaky with Izuku rubbing his back.

“Show’s what you know, HALF-AND-HALF BASTARD. Making shitty eggs that are both OVERCOOKED and FUCKING LIQUID, you idiot half-brain half-stupid face FUCKWIT.” Bakugou suddenly takes the frying pan off the stove and slams it down on the counter to keep agitating the eggs off the heat.

“You talk like no one else has ever cooked eggs before.” Shouto observes. “It’s an extremely easy food to make.”

“Yeah for IDIOTS— FUCK OFF, DEKU, I’M NOT DONE WITH THAT.”

Izuku makes a tiny squeaking sound and retreats back behind Shouto, abandoning his attempt to turn the stove off. He keeps eying it warily, though. This really doesn’t seem like a safe setting for an open flame.

“I told you to stop calling Izuku that.” Shouto says. “You may call him Midoriya.”

“Shut THE FUCK UP.” Bakugou explodes, red eyes going wide with rage. He slams the frying pan back on the stove. “I will say what I FUCKING WANT WHEN I FUCKING WANT. TRY TO STOP ME, FUCKWAD.”

“You don’t deserve to call him by such a personal name.” Shouto says flatly.

Izuku winces. Oh no.

“FUCK OFF!” The counter is probably permanently singed from where Bakugou slams his fist down. “YOU DON’T GET TO TELL ME WHAT TO FUCKING DO, HALF-AND-HALF BASTARD. GO FUCKING SIT ON DEKU’S SHITTY NERD DICK— I DON’T GIVE A FUCK— I’LL SAY WHAT I FUCKING WANT.”

Izuku squeaks and covers his face in embarrassment.

“Maybe I will.” Shouto says snidely.

Izuku squeaks even louder, both terrified and horrifically intrigued. WHAT?

“You can listen all night long.” Shouto says with a smirk.

HOLY SHIT. SHOUTO, NO. Izuku has the horrible realization that a thought can both be an instant turn on and turn off. Being a teenager is viscerally unpleasant.

“FUCK OFF, I DON’T WANT TO HEAR THAT!”

“Maybe you should think of that before you start screaming first thing in the morning.” Shouto muses mockingly. “It gives your neighbors ideas.”

“I TOLD YOU TO GET FUCKING EARPLUGS, PERVERT BITCH. YOUR WHINING IS FUCKING ANNOYING.”

Shouto shrugs nonchalantly. “You can get earplugs yourself, then.” He leans back, pressing his shoulder blades into Izuku’s pectorals. “Right, Izuku?”

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhh—” Izuku starts hemming and finds himself unable to stop. He makes just one continuous noise like a broken pulltag doll. If the building blew up again, killing him instantly, he’d honestly be a little okay with it right then.

Shouto glances back at him and suddenly ducks away, belatedly remembering he has goddamn shame. He clears his throat and addresses Bakugou with significantly less smug. “Or, you could just not wake up everyone around you in the morning. Of course, I understand how that must be hard for you, Bakugou.”

“FUCK YOU.” Bakugou hisses and slams the frying pan of eggs down on the counter again. “It’s not FUCKING HARD.”

“It must be, since it’s been two days since we’ve moved in and two consecutive mornings of unnecessary screaming.”

“FUCK OFF!” Bakugou snarls. “I can FUCKING DO IT. I just don’t GIVE A SHIT, you PERVERT DICKRAG.”

Izuku swallows and whispers helpfully. “He’s been like that since forever. We used to be neighbors and every morning he’d—”

“SHUT THE FUCK UP, DICKWIT DEKU.”

“Yeah, like that.” Izuku shrinks behind his boyfriend.

Bakugou throws his head back and snarls at the ceiling, explosions going off in both hands, like he’s a foiled Disney villain. “WHAT the FUCK EVER, I DON’T EVEN FUCKING CARE.” He storms off. “SEE IF I FUCKING HELP YOU COOK FUCKING BASIC SHIT YOU TWO BIT NERD FUCKERS.”

“I would never call that helping.” Shouto murmurs spitefully.

Izuku sighs and reaches around to finally turn the stove off. “I’m sorry about him.”

“Don’t apologize for the likes of Bakugou.” Shouto frowns as he examines the contents of the much contested frying pan. “I started it, anyway.”

Izuku sighs woefully. “I think neither of you are morning people…”

“Technically, he caused it.” Shouto continues, still full of spite.

“His personality is cause for a lot of things.” Izuku mutters. Louder, he says, “But that’s not on you. The only thing on you are your own actions, Shouto.”

“Good.” Shouto huffs and pulls down a plate and cup for breakfast. “I’d like to be known as the sort of hero who stands up for himself and others.”

Izuku sighs. And just last night he was saying Izuku was the stubborn one.

“Especially you.” Shouto continues, pointedly not looking at him. “I don’t know why you let him treat you like that.”

Izuku pushes his sweaty hair back from his forehead. “Listen, I know you mean well, Shouto, but I’ve been dealing with Kacchan for most of my life. And if there’s anything to be learned… nothing I do will change his behavior. More often than not, any intervention from me will just make him worse.”

Shouto scowls. “That’s not an excuse for his behavior.”

“No, it’s not.” Izuku agrees. “But it’s a fact. Doesn’t absolve him of anything… but the rest of us need a way to deal.”

Shouto glances at him, gauging his expression suspiciously. “You’re so nice to him though.”

“Not really.” Izuku shrugs. “Well,” he scratches at his face contemplatively, “About as nice as I’d be to anyone, I guess? Do I seem nice? I’m not trying to treat him differently than anyone else. Other than, well, avoiding him as much as possible…”

Shouto sighs. He scoops the perfectly scrambled eggs onto the plate with unusually forlorn motions. “Izuku,” he pauses and stays still for a moment, staring deeply into the eggs.

“Yes?” Izuku prompts after a moment.

Shouto drops the spatula with a clatter and wraps both arms around himself.

Izuku reaches for his elbow, alarmed by the defensive posture.

“Is that how you treat everyone who has ever hurt you? With kindness and— and indifference to the pain they’ve caused you?” Shouto gasps rapidly. “You can’t just do that. You can’t let people who hurt you be in your life. You don’t— what if I—”

Oh. Izuku steps up and gently pulls Shouto’s chin around to look at him. “Hey, it’s okay.”

“No, it’s not—” Shouto rasps.

“It is.” Izuku insists. “You’re nothing like Kacchan.” Izuku pointedly pokes at his own face, where the burn from last night is already fading. “You didn’t mean to do this.”

“N-no.” Shouto agrees.

“That means everything.” Izuku reasons gently. He cups Shouto’s cheek tentatively, half-afraid the boy will bolt. “I know you wouldn’t do it on purpose. It was just an accident.”

Shouto looks back at him, as if drinking in his gaze like a man lost in the desert.

Izuku brushes a thumb just under the scar on his face. “A while ago, having someone like you next to me seemed like a pipedream.” Izuku murmurs. “Kind, considerate, and so strong— you’re the opposite of all those bad things you’re thinking of. Don’t think just because I don’t berate Kacchan at every opportunity means I can’t recognize that.”

Shouto ducks his head, pressing his cheek into Izuku’s palm. “Just… if I ever hurt you like that. Promise me you’ll break up with me.”

Izuku exhales roughly in surprise. Shouto… He would never believe Shouto capable of such violence, so it’s easy to suddenly see the where the idea could have possibly come from. “Oh. The day you act like Endeavor is the day I kill you.”

Shouto flinches and looks at him with wide eyes.

Izuku grins toothily. “That guy… is number two on my list of people I like to eviscerate in my daydreams.”

Shouto snorts. He reaches up and cradles Izuku’s hand against his face, ducking his eyes shyly. “You really are surprisingly and unapologetically aggressive under that innocent demeanor.”

“Dunno why it’s a surprise.” Izuku snarks. “Remember that time I waged psychological warfare on you and won?”

Shouto smiles. “You mean the fourth time you broke all your bones? How could I forget.”

Izuku hums, satisfied that he’s successfully smoothed over yet another emotional pitfall. He brings up his other hand to cup both of Shouto’s cheeks between his palms. “You’re not like your father at all. I should know, I wanted to punch Endeavor in the balls three seconds after meeting him, but all I wanna do with you is hold you close.”

Shouto blushes ferociously, skin heating up on one side. “Th-that’s fair. I— I wouldn’t, um, mind that.”

“Really?” Izuku slides in closer, not letting go of Shouto’s face.

They both blush when their foreheads bump together.

“S-so,” Shouto blurts out suddenly, averting his eyes. “Who’s number one on your list?”

“Hm?” Izuku blinks.

“On your list of people for eviscerating.” Shouto clarifies, still not looking at him. “Which you have, apparently.”

Izuku’s gaze darkens, refocusing on the middle distance where he can glare indiscriminately. “Shigaraki.”

“O-oh…”

Izuku pulls Shouto the rest of the way into a hug. Someday he’s gonna tear that asshole’s arms off.

Shouto sighs. “I thought you were mad at me.” Shouto says quietly into his shoulder, his arms circling around Izuku’s waist. “You weren’t there when I woke up, so I thought—”

“I’m not mad at you.” Izuku murmurs.

“If you woke up, and remembered properly what had happened—”

“Shouto, no.” Izuku forcefully nuzzles his ear. “It doesn’t even hurt anymore. You took such good care of me.”

Shouto sighs, squeezing Izuku’s ribs. “Your sense of pain is not to be trusted.”

Izuku huffs. “I’m fine. And I’m the furthest thing from mad.”

“... Okay. You’ll need another application of burn cream after your shower, though.”

Izuku presses his grin into the skin under Shouto’s ear. At least for this moment, it sounds like he believes him.

“You’re really gross right now.” Shouto mutters.

“Oh, uh…” Izuku lifts his head sheepishly, suddenly remembering how sweaty he is. “... You might wanna wash your yukata. Sorry.”

Shouto hugs him tighter. “In a bit.”


 

Shouto waits for him in the common room as he gets ready, which is a new thing they do that Izuku honestly loves. He gets to hold Shouto’s hand all the way to class and he can’t think of a better way to start the school day. It’s extra sweet because Shouto is the sort of person to randomly wander off to do his own thing if he has to wait for more than thirty seconds, so Izuku is touched.

As they arrive at homeroom with Izuku happily swinging their hands back and forth, they find Kendou from 1-B hovering outside the door.

“Hi!” Izuku greets brightly while Shouto nods.

Kendou jumps and straightens her back. “Oh! Hello! I was just…” She looks nervously at the unnecessarily large door.

“You can come in!” Izuku opens the door for her. “Class hasn’t started yet and we don’t bite!”

“Not so sure about your teacher, though…” Kendou murmurs and follows him.

Inside the classroom is the usual start-of-the-day hubbub. Utter chaos, in other words. Ashido is standing astride two desks like the statue of Colossus with her friends prancing around her and Aoyama is putting on a ballet performance for some reason in front of the blackboard. Not to mention the chatter coming from everyone else, which is at the decibel level of an oncoming train.

Aizawa-sensei is laid out in his sleeping bag behind his desk, staring balefully at the ceiling.

“Um, Aizawa-sensei…” Kendou approaches him sheepishly. “I’m from class 1-B next door…”

“Tell Vlad if he wants quiet he can come yell at these brats himself.” Aizawa-sensei says flatly.

“Um,” Kendou says. “Sekijirou-sensei isn’t here today. We were supposed to have a special lesson with Snipe-sensei but he hasn’t showed up…”

Aizawa-sensei sits up suddenly, looking like an angry yellow caterpillar in his sleeping bag. “You mean you kids are unsupervised.” Aizawa-sensei says like Kendou just admitted to committing dastardly crimes in her spare time.

“Y-yes. Um, I wasn’t sure—”

Aizawa-sensei stands up and glares at class 1-A.

Izuku is a little proud of how quickly the noise dies down and people dive into their seats. He pulls Shouto down their own row of desks, vaulting himself into his own as Shouto slides home a couple desks behind him.

“You kids better behave, I need to go check on the other class.”

“Yes, sensei!” 1-A cheers back dutifully.

Aizawa-sensei scoffs and shuffles out of the classroom still in his sleeping bag.

“HECK YEAH, PARTY!” Ashido jumps up the instant Aizawa-sensei is two seconds out the door.

“WHOO HOO!” Kaminari climbs up on his desk and rips his tie off to start whipping it around his head.

“This is unseemly behavior!” Iida jumps up himself to start aggressively chopping the air. “Unbecoming of the hero class of the illustrious U.A.!”

“Hey,” Mineta pokes him in the back, sniggering. “Hey, Midoriya,”

Izuku turns around, perplexed. He doesn’t… particularly like Mineta. But he’s between two people he’d rather avoid in this accursed seating arrangement and at least the one least likely to attack him is behind him.

“Does Todoroki let you smash?” Is Mineta’s inane question.

Izuku frowns. “Um. Yeah, all the time?” Shouto has expressed disapproval of him breaking his bones, but he’s never tried to stop him.

Izuku jumps as Mineta screeches.

“It’s not fair!” Mineta cries. “How come a gross gay gets his dick wet before me!?”

“E-eh?” Izuku freezes, blinking rapidly.

“I know you weren’t in your room last night!” Mineta accuses. “You totally had sex!”

“Um.” Izuku blushes. “Th-that’s not—”

“Stop rubbing it in people’s faces, you fag—”

Mineta is thrown clean out of his chair when an entire school desk comes flying through the air to bean him in the head.

“BE NICE TO DEKU!” Uraraka roars from the opposite side of the classroom.

Izuku blinks, mildly alarmed. Uraraka can be really scary when she wants to be.

“Yeah!” Kirishima stands up. “Leave the guy alone!”

“BE NICE!” Kaminari imitates Uraraka, picking up his own desk and holding it above his head.

“BE NICE!” Ashido echoes and throws one of her own shoes.

That starts a veritable scene. Unfortunately, many people don’t have nearly as good aim as Uraraka does.

Izuku squeals under the sudden barrage of school supplies and other questionable projectiles. He skitters out of the way with Full Cowl on and hides behind Shouto, who is watching this unfold with dispassionate aplomb.

He observes with rising alarm as beside him Yaoyorozu seems to contemplate the situation for a moment before standing up, picking up her own desk, and spiking it into the Mineta Pile with extreme prejudice.

Izuku grips Shouto’s shoulders for comfort. His classmates are all terrifying people.


 

Shinsou is totally ignoring him.

Izuku is used to the cold shoulder. It was usually the best reaction he could hope for from his classmates in middle school, but in this case it frustrates him.

It’s obvious it is intentional as well. Since he keeps spotting Shinsou looking at him out of the corner of his eye, but when he turns around Shinsou is very pointedly Not Looking.

There’s no way that’s a coincidence.

“You can’t eat two pounds of protein with rice.” Shouto informs him at lunch.

“Try to stop me.” Izuku grins and stuffs three bites worth of chicken into his mouth before he starts chewing. “I’s nee’ id.” He painfully swallows. “Since you wouldn’t let me add my protein powder to my breakfast…”

“You should eat more vegetables.” Shouto says and moves some carrots and turnips from his own plate to Izuku’s.

“You should eat more vegetables!” Izuku returns.

Shouto shrugs. “I only chose this dish for the mushrooms.” Shouto says and pointedly eats a mushroom.

Izuku frowns. He thinks for a moment and then turns to his other side where Yaoyorozu is sitting. He whispers, “Is a mushroom a vegetable?”

“A mushroom is a fungi!” Iida declares across the table.

Yaoyorozu covers her mouth while she chews, waiting until her food has been swallowed to speak up. “A mushroom is neither a fruit nor a vegetable. It is generally considered a decent meat substitute in many dishes, though, because of the texture.”

“Oh!” Izuku turns around and steals a mushroom off of Shouto’s plate.

He grins cheekily around his stolen goods at Shouto’s appalled expression. “Yaoyorozu said it’s meat. I need meat.”

“Mushrooms are not meat!” Iida argues. “They are fungi!”

Shouto’s expression narrows the second before he tries to steal some of Izuku’s chicken.

“No!” Izuku cries and tries to defend his food with his chopsticks.

“Get ‘im, Todoroki!” Uraraka cheers.

“No!” Izuku whines when Shouto finally wins a strip of delicious chicken.

“I told you to eat your vegetables.” Shouto smirks around his mouthful. “Or else.”

“You did start it, Midoriya.” Tsuyu notes from across the table. She turns to Uraraka. “You’re right, they’re really cute together.”

“I know! Right?” Uraraka claps.

Izuku covers his face.

He’s embarrassed, but he’s also grinning uncontrollably. Just a year ago, he thinks he would have been terrified. Back then, he couldn’t have fathomed that he’d be surrounded by this many people and be welcomed.

It took him a while to warm up to the idea of being teased, since it was difficult for him to separate it from his memories of… far less savory treatment. But he’s getting there.

He peeks from between his fingers to see Tsuyu and Uraraka whispering to each other and snickering at them, pointing fingers and everything like mannerless kindergartners. Iida and Yaoyorozu are in a heated argument about the… etymology of ‘meat,’ for some reason. And Shouto…

Shouto is bashfully sneaking a mushroom onto his plate for every second that Izuku is hiding his face.

Izuku uncovers his face and warbles. “You guys are so nice.”

“Oh no, he’s crying again.” Tsuyu notes.

“I’m sorry.” Izuku sniffles.

Shouto picks up one of his pieces of chicken and holds it out to him.

Izuku bites it off his chopsticks with a blush and mutters. “I’m fine. You don’t have to feed me.” The influx of flustered embarrassment when Uraraka coos at that chases away the rest of his tears.

“You can’t waste any time if you want to finish all this food before the bell rings.” Shouto tells him seriously. “Including all these vegetables.”

Izuku giggles. “Okay, okay. I’ll eat them, don’t worry.”

“Good.” Shouto sits back with a satisfied air.

Grinning, Izuku gets back to stuffing his face.

Having friends, he thinks, is so different and also so much better than he thought it would be.

He squints across the cafeteria, spotting the blur of purple when Shinsou turns away again.

He huffs. Even if there are still some people who will always be more of the same…

The lunch period is nearly over when All Might comes to find him.

“Ah, young Midoriya,” All Might greets. “I've been looking for you.”

“Hi, All Might!” Uraraka sings cheerily, waving her arms back and forth like river grass in the wind.

“Hello,” Tsuyu lilts while copying her.

“All Might!” Iida nearly bows into his food. “Please! If you could give us your opinion on the origin of the word 'beef!’”

“Ah,” Yaoyorozu hems. “It's not that important, All Might needn’t bother with it…”

“It is important!” Iida retorts. “Because I am quite sure I am the one who is correct!”

“Ah…” All Might visibly sweats at all the excitement. “You all seem to be in a good mood.” He smiles down at Izuku. “I don't mean to pull you away from your friends, young Midoriya, but if you have the time, I would like to discuss some things with you.”

“Oh, sure!” Izuku says and hurriedly stuffs several bites worth of food into his mouth at once.

Still chewing, he vaults over the back of the booth they’re sequestered in, changes his mind and vaults back over to give Shouto a clumsy hug which earns him a surprised huff, and then vaults back over again. “‘M rea’y!” He bounces on his toes.

All Might smiles at him. “It’s good to see you so full of energy, young Midoriya. I was worrying about that.”

“Ah?” Izuku swallows roughly and coughs. “Really? Why?” He takes the juice box Shouto points at him. “Thanks, hun.”

All Might shakes his head. “It’s good to see you bonding so closely with your classmates. Well, shall we?” He gestures out onto the quad.

“Sure,” Izuku gives his friends the peace sign on his way out.

“So,” All Might begins tentatively once they’re out under the sun and relative quiet of the outdoors. “You seem to be settling in to dorm life quite well.”

Izuku thinks about it for a moment, tilting his head back and forth. “This is a good day, I think. I haven’t figured out why Yaoyorozu blew up the dorms yet, but whatever I messed up the first time doesn’t seem inclined to happen again.”

“A-ah…” All Might agrees hesitantly.

“And,” Izuku continues in a brighter tone. “Aizawa-sensei trained with me this morning! I learned a lot!”

“Oh, that was very kind of him.” All Might pushes his index fingers together. “I’m sure he’s a very good teacher…”

“And,” Izuku blushes and clasps his hands, smiling dreamily. “I got to sleep with Shouto…”

“O-oh my!” All Might wheezes and coughs.

“I-I mean! Not like that!” Izuku waves his arms in alarm. “Just sleeping! We’ve kinda done it before— like at camp after— Oh my god, I don’t mean like done it before—”

All Might waves his hands back, equally alarmed. “I understand! I would just prefer if you boys were safe! But you don’t need to tell me! Unless you want to that is! I’m always here to talk!”

Izuku abruptly turns away to hide his red face as All Might coughs awkwardly into his hand. Well, that was awful.

“A-anyway,” All Might thankfully changes the subject. “I asked you here today to clarify some things.”

Izuku peeks around hesitantly.

“I, perhaps, did not clearly explain the benefits of talk therapy—” All Might begins.

Izuku rolls his eyes and then immediately scuffs the ground in shame. It just feels wrong to sass All Might.

“Many pro heroes see someone to talk to regularly.” All Might says, looking at his hands. “Pro heroes work in a high stress environment, and are frequently exposed to trauma-inducing situations. Heroes who seek psychological treatment are sixty-eight percent more likely to have higher job satisfaction than their peers.”

Izuku stands up on his tippy toes to see what All Might is looking at. He’s got a little slip of paper cradled in his palms.

“What are you reading?” Izuku asks.

“Ah!” All Might hides his notecard with furtive movements. “Nothing!”

Izuku bites his lip. All Might is worse at lying than Izuku…

“Uh,” All Might wrings his hands, fumbling for his rhythm. “Well, as I was saying, there are clear benefits to therapy, even for pro heroes. So! What I mean to say is, there is no shame in going to therapy! It can even help you become a better hero!”

Izuku frowns. “Do you go to therapy, All Might?”

“Ah,” All Might nervously fiddles with his sleeve. “Well…”

Izuku huffs. “I don’t have time for that stuff either.”

All Might grimaces. “That’s not— I’m not… the best… example, my boy.”

“The most important thing for me is to get stronger.” Izuku says. “I’m already working out at the maximum possible level without permanently injuring myself. These things take time.”

All Might winces. “We’ve noticed… Don’t you think you should focus more on your studies? You have plenty of time—”

“The dorm blew up just two days ago!” Izuku retorts angrily. He doesn’t understand why All Might doesn’t see the urgency here. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next! But it’s probably gonna be bad!”

“Bad things happen.” All Might reasons gently. “But that’s not a reason to forgo your own comfort. What about your friends?”

Izuku turns away abruptly. Even the thought of glaring at All Might makes him nauseous, but he can’t control his facial expression in that moment. “What about them?”

“I’m sure they’re worried about you…” All Might says.

Izuku huffs. He spots the only other people in the courtyard, Snipe-sensei and Shinsou. He doesn’t need a reminder that Shinsou exists. He scowls at the ground instead.

“Young Iida and young Uraraka have both expressed their concerns to me—”

Izuku spins around. “They have? Why?”

All Might shifts. “Apparently it is unlike you to turn down group outings so many weeks in a row… they thought I was pushing you too hard in training.”

Izuku turns around again and crosses his arms. “I was training. I’ll apologize to them later…”

Snipe-sensei has climbed up into one of the tall oaks lining the main path, and is perched on a sturdy branch facing his way. Izuku squints at him, briefly distracted. Is that a habit of his… ?

Shinsou is approaching them. “Yo, All Might,” he greets.

All Might startles behind Izuku. “A-ah… I’m afraid we haven’t met, young…”

Shinsou sighs and meets Izuku’s gaze. “There’s not much point in trying to put you under, right?”

“Huh?” Izuku blinks.

Shinsou grits his teeth. He looks at the ground and shoves his hands deeply into his pockets, his shoulders hunched. “If you can stop me…” Shinsou whispers to him. “It probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

“What?” Izuku frowns. Intuition has him spinning around suddenly to check on All Might.

The number one hero is standing unusually still, face slack and empty.

Izuku turns around slowly, electricity crackling over his form. “What are you doing, Shinsou?”

Shinsou sighs and pushes his hair back from his face. He grimaces brokenly. “But I can’t let you stop me, you know? This is— this is all I can do, now.”

“Shinsou,” Izuku says warningly. He adjusts his footing, ready for a leap.

Shinsou sighs. “The chances of someone like me becoming a hero were so small anyway… But Midoriya, know that I’m doing this to save someone I love, alright? I’m gonna save someone.”

Izuku is confused, but all the red flags are going up in his brain. He edges a couple inches forward. “Don’t. Whatever you’re thinking, Shinsou. Don’t.”

Shinsou grits his teeth, water gathering at the edges of his eyes. “I have to.” He breathes unsteadily and turns to the ensorceled All Might. “All Might, destroy U.A.”

“No!” Izuku lunges, but he stumbles to the ground instead, a loud crack echoing in the courtyard air.

The pain hits a full second after he hits the concrete. “Ow— fuck.” He thought his pain tolerance was high but getting shot is the worst.

Blood blooms quickly through his uniform, pooling under his knee where Snipe shot out his kneecap at fifty paces. “Godfuckdammit!” Izuku curses as he struggles to his feet.

Just as he makes it halfway upright again, another shot rings out and catches him in the shoulder. The force of it sends him tumbling down onto his other side.

“Shitfuckow—”

“Sorry, Midoriya,” Shinsou says, sounding genuinely contrite. “But you were too much of a threat. I told him to make sure not to kill you, so… just chill, I guess.”

“Fuck you.” Izuku growls as he contemplates how to get back up with only two working limbs.

“You’re really persistent.” Shinsou muses. “That hurts a lot doesn’t it?”

Izuku strains to lift his head, and spots All Might marching into the main building of U.A. “No, Shinsou, you have to stop him. You can’t— there are people in there! They’re gonna die!”

“Tch,” Shinsou grinds his teeth. “I know that.”

Izuku groans as he pushes at the earth but only manages to awkwardly crabwalk four inches in the wrong direction. “Don’t you care?”

“Of course I care!” Shinsou snaps. He bites his tongue and shakes silently for a moment, fists clenched. “This is— this is all I can do now. It’s the only way.”

Izuku pants as he fumbles. “There’s another way. There’s gotta be. You don’t have to do this.” He tries another tack, begging desperately. “All Might— this will destroy him. Don’t make him do this, please. Not— not All Might—”

Shinsou looks away from him, breathing nearly as raggedly as Izuku. “I know that. I think that’s the point. They want— they want to make a point.”

There’s a subsonic boom of suddenly displaced air.

Izuku watches in despair as U.A. crumbles like a stack of cards in the wind. The damage is catastrophic with just one blow.

He turns over and vomits. “No,” he cries. “No, god dammit not again, please.”

Shinsou shifts uneasily. “Sorry, Midoriya…”

Everyone inside— his teachers, his classmates, his friends… Shouto— there’s no way they survived.

Izuku chokes on tears and vomit. “Fuck you.” he hisses. He flops onto his back and summons One For All at one hundred percent. “You’ll pay for this.”

Shinsou won’t look him in the eye. “I know.”

Izuku feels grim satisfaction from seeing Shinsou’s dawning horror when he winds up the punch and aims it at his own head.

Izuku learns you can hear the squelch and crunch of your own skull imploding just before you die. It’s not a fun fact.

Chapter Text

Izuku is furious.

He wants to throttle Shinsou like the traitorous little shit he is, but more than anything he wants to throttle himself.

He waits and he fumes as he lets time rewind and he watches.

Seeing it all over again makes it so easy to spot all the little mistakes Izuku made and all the big red flags he missed.

There’s several moments right in the beginning— before Snipe fires his first shot, before he lets All Might lead them out of the building, before all of these terrible events converged— but he’s learned his lesson with time travel at this point. You have to nip these things in the bud.

And there’s one big mistake he made that needs to be remedied before all the others.


At last, the time comes.

Shinsou relaxes his shoulders, “Heh,” he huffs. “You’re a funny one, Mido—”

Izuku rises from the ground and lifts Shinsou up by his collar. The late afternoon light shines through his purple hair, haloing the boy with shades of midnight.

“You,” Izuku growls. “Will not be hurting anybody.” He squints against the sun as a sharp stab of pain lances through his temple.

“Whoa,” Shinsou’s breath stutters in his throat, his eyes going wide. “Midoriya, uh—”

Izuku turns and starts to pick his way through the bushes lining the side of their dorm, still holding his captive aloft.

“H-hang on, Midoriya! It was just a prank.” Shinsou says nervously. “No harm done, right? I didn’t do anything, c’mon!”

“You’re after All Might.” Izuku hisses. “I won’t let you near him.”

Shinsou is quiet for a beat. Izuku can feel the increased tempo of his breathing where it rushes over his wrist. “Y-you’re not supposed to remember— listen. I wasn’t gonna do anything bad—”

Izuku stops to give him a hateful stare.

Shinsou licks his lips and pushes at Izuku’s hold on his clothes. “C-c’mon, I wasn’t— w-wait—”

Izuku starts moving again with an annoyed growl. His head is agony. They’re almost to the wide open broken window.

“Please— wait—” Shinsou starts to beg. “I have to— You have to understand— I don’t have a choice. Th-they’ll kill—” Shinsou chokes on a sob. “Th-they’re gonna hurt my—”

Izuku is full of too much pain and rage to feel remorse when he tosses Shinsou onto the coffee table and it breaks under his back.

Aizawa-sensei bolts into a sitting position on the couch, suddenly alert but blinking rapidly like his eyes are dry.

“Midoriya,” he says in a way that calls for a very prompt and thorough explanation or else.

Izuku clutches at his head as Shinsou wheezes weakly among the splinters of the coffee table. “... Found the traitor.”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “You used it again, didn’t you.”

Izuku grits his teeth. He got shot! Twice! Aizawa-sensei could sound a little less disappointed in him, thank you.

Aizawa-sensei sighs more deeply. “I’ll take care of this. You take care of yourself before you collapse.”

“Yes, sensei.” Izuku gruffs and stumbles around to the opposite side of the common room.

His friends are still arrayed together on the big couch with their textbooks out but only the responsible ones have them open.

He registers all of them staring at him with varying degrees of surprise and bewilderment, but he isn’t capable of focusing on too many things at once with his head pounding the way it is, so mostly he looks at Shouto, who is very pretty.

“D-deku, what was that about?” Uraraka wonders, her eyes wide.

“You’re going to get another detention!” Iida gestures at the broken furniture and incapacitated 1C student with horror.

Grunting, Izuku stumbles to his knees in front of Shouto and snags his right hand. He pulls it up to the top of his head. “Cold hand?” He begs hopefully.

Shouto is watching him with no small amount of confusion, but he obligingly chills his hand and sinks it into his curls.

Izuku shivers as some of the pain leeches away, sighing in relief. His muscles all relax involuntarily and he collapses face first into Shouto’s lap. “Aw, hun,” Izuku husks. “You’re the best.”

“What is going on?” Yaoyorozu asks over his head.

“Midoriya did something reckless, I imagine. Kero.” Tsuyu says, nonplussed.

Shouto’s hand carefully combs through his curls, gently palpating his cranium in search of injury and leaving a soothing frosty trail everywhere he touches. “Was there a fight? Are you hurt?”

“Just tired…” Izuku slurs and shifts to a slightly more comfortable position, bracketing Shouto’s thighs with his forearms. He feels like he’s been awake for a full twenty four hours. If using Quantum Immortality for prolonged rewinds causes him to accumulate mental strain, then it seems it adds to any strain he already had at the time it releases. If the stress is the physical manifestation of his quirk that means it doesn’t really erase him and replace his past psyche with his future psyche... it merges it? Or maybe with this quirk his body is in a constant state of quantum flux and therefore parts of him are always disconnected from the flow of time— his consciousness is just sliding back and forth through a fixed dimensional plane… where past and futures are all inevitable…

“W-what is he saying?” Yaoyorozu asks. “That’s not on our physics homework is it?”

“Shh,” Uraraka hushes her. “He’s muttering himself to sleep. He’s already in Deku Dreamland.”

Shouto’s fingers gently scrape over his scalp, ice-cold and wonderful.


There’s a sharp noise, high-pitched and grating.

Izuku wakes up swinging, swiping the cellphone out of Yaoyorozu’s hand with a snarl.

“Ah!” Yaoyorozu fumbles while Izuku falls over sideways.

He blinks at the ceiling from his back, disoriented.

“Jeez,” Jirou leans over Yaoyorozu’s lap to look down at him. “Spaz much.”

Izuku licks his lips. His mouth is dry. “My legs are asleep.” He tells her. He tries wiggling his toes, but he honestly can’t feel if he’s succeeding.

Jirou sighs at him and leans down to tug him back up, propping him up against Shouto’s knees, before she retrieves Yaoyorozu’s phone from the floor.

“Sorry for waking you up.” Yaoyorozu says sheepishly. “I thought the sound was off.”

“S’fine.” Izuku rubs his eyes and looks around.

The sun has definitely set and the lights are dimmed in the common room. His friends have disappeared— likely to their own beds.

Shouto is conked out himself, mouth open and drooling a little where he’s wedged somehow behind Yaoyorozu’s shoulder.

Smiling a little, Izuku finds one of Shouto’s hands in his lap and steals it so he can rub his thumbs over his palm. His skin is soft and normal-warm with his quirk all the way off while he sleeps. This, Izuku thinks, is worth a full rewind.

“Um,” Yaoyorozu says like she’s got more to say.

Izuku looks up, still trying to blink the haze of sleep away.

“Get your boyfriend and get outta here.” Jirou tells him with a little smirk. “So Yaomomo can be free.”

“O-oh… it’s okay, I don’t mind…” Yaoyorozu ducks her head sheepishly. “It’s not worth disturbing them…”

Izuku wipes at his mouth. There’s a crust on his cheek that is most likely dried drool. Gross. He and Shouto are a pair, at least. “‘Kay, as soon as I can feel my legs.”

“Oh— it’s fine, there’s no rush!”

Izuku puts his head back down in Shouto’s lap just because it’s comfy. “How long was I asleep?”

“Five hours.” Jirou says, sounding vaguely impressed. “And, wow, Midoriya, you can sleep through absolutely anything.”

Izuku huffs, considering all the shit that went down before he rewound time he wouldn’t be surprised if his brain just decided to take a vacation. He wonders if one day he’ll rewind and just immediately slip into a coma. It would be just his luck with this quirk.

But.

Izuku lifts his head and glares up at the softly snoring Shouto and the two girls snuggled right up next to him. Everyone is so relaxed and Jirou’s eyes are full of mirth and Yaoyorozu seems equal parts embarrassed and happy— sneaking smiles from under her lashes at each of her classmates like they’re little secrets— and Izuku gets to have this, knowing that death is around every corner… that he could lose it at any moment.

Izuku scowls and carefully laces Shouto’s fingers with his.

He did this. Izuku reminds himself fiercely. He made this peace with that godforsaken quirk. Even though every time feels like dragging himself up a mountain of broken glass.

“Um,” Yaoyorozu begins again. “Midoriya?”

“Hm,” Izuku hums and presses his lips against Shouto’s knuckles— not kissing, but just feeling his skin against his lips. He’s feeling inexplicably antsy and he needs the extra contact.

“I haven’t had a chance to speak with you privately.” Yaoyorozu continues. “But now that we’re here, I’ve been meaning to apologize.”

Izuku looks up, perplexed. “What for?”

Yaoyorozu nervously smoothes down the cloth over her thighs. Jirou watches her with an encouraging hand on her elbow. “Um, I’m not entirely sure— I just! Wanted you to know, that if I did anything to offend you— I apologize and would very much like you to tell me what I did wrong, so I can remedy it—”

Izuku sighs and hangs his head so he can rub his tired eyes.

Of course Yaoyorozu noticed Izuku’s suspicion of her. She’s extremely observant and Izuku, now that he’s remembering, shoved her more than once to get her to stop sitting next to Shouto at meals, among all the glares he was sending her way. So— he hasn’t exactly been subtle.

“If—” Yaoyorozu bites her lip. “This is about the fire alarm situation—”

“That’s totally not it.” Jirou interjects. “Midoriya’s just a possessive prick, right Midoriya?”

Izuku looks up, squinting at Jirou. “... No?”

Jirou smirks, leaning into Yaoyorozu. “No? This isn’t about how Yaomomo is your boyfriend’s only friend of his own and how you think she’s a threat?”

“Th-that’s not—” Yaoyorozu ducks her head and clutches her hands in her lap.

“N— ahh—” Izuku breaks off to groan as feeling suddenly comes back to his legs. Pins and needles burn his every nerve ending. He weakly wiggles his feet with a wince. On second thought… who needs legs.

Jirou rolls her eyes at him. “If you bothered to do any investigation, you’d know your boy is super gay.”

“I’m not possessive.” Izuku grits out.

“Like, flaming-homosexual-gay.” Jirou continues smugly. “Which is fitting, considering his quirk.”

“Kyouka—” Yaoyorozu touches her wrist gently and Jirou suddenly leans back, looking away from Midoriya with a huff.

“Anyway, it’s not cool to be a prick to your boo’s friends.” Jirou finishes with a nonchalant shrug, glancing at Yaoyorozu from the corner of her eye.

Izuku sighs and rubs at the back of his neck. “That’s not— yes, fine, I agree.” He’s too tired to put up much of a fight. He looks up at Yaoyorozu. “I’ve not been kind to you lately, and I’m sorry. It’s got nothing to do with you. I’m just an idiot.”

Yaoyorozu smiles with relief. “Thank you— I mean, it’s fine. I understand.”

Izuku smiles back sheepishly. “I’m really glad you’re Shouto’s friend, for what it’s worth. He’s kinda reserved, so thanks for having the patience he needs.”

Yaoyorozu blushes and ducks her head. “Th-thank you. That’s a kind thing to say. And! Um, for what it’s worth— Todoroki only ever talks about you!” She abruptly covers her mouth and mumbles under her breath, “Should I have said that?”

Izuku grins and ducks to hide his own blush. He squeezes Shouto’s fingers, pressing his lips to them again.

“Oh my god,” Jirou rolls her eyes. “Watching you two interact is an exercise in patience.”

“K-kyouka—”

“You’re so respectful and polite, it’s boring.”

Izuku snorts.

“Please, go to bed.” Jirou whines. “I’m only here so Yaomomo doesn’t have to be alone, ‘cuz she won’t move like Todoroki here is some immovable object or something— so pick up your gay ass and your super faithful boyfriend and scoot.”

Izuku frowns. That’s far from the first time someone has called him that lately, but the first from a friendly face. Izuku looks up and says as innocently as he can. “Actually, this tushy is bisexual.”

Jirou blinks at him for a second. She holds up a hand. “Bi’s represent.” She says flatly.

Izuku stares at her hand for a second before gently high fiving her. He didn’t expect a kindred spirit. He’s only ever had support from people, well— from his mom, at least. “You too?” He asks with wonder.

Yaoyorozu giggles behind her hands.

“Yes. Now, scram.”

Izuku grins, stumbling to his feet. “Okay. Okay. Lemme just—” He gently wiggles his hands under Shouto’s back and knees, digging him out from Yaoyorozu’s side. He’s really wedged in there.

Shouto isn’t very heavy, even without Full Cowl. Despite being a few inches taller than him, he’s not packed with an improbable amount of muscle for a fourteen year old like Izuku is. Though he is built in a lovely, lithe way that Izuku likes. Hm… be good, be good.

Shouto mumbles and curls up against his chest like a heat-seeking cuddle missile. Izuku grins and cradles him as gently as he can. Heh, not nearly as light a sleeper as he thinks he is…

“So, Jirou,” Izuku starts up abruptly when he remembers they're still in the room. “When did you—”

“No,” Jirou cuts him off. “Go to bed. This isn’t a sleepover.”

Izuku pouts.

“That only works on Todoroki.” Jirou says.

“We should have a sleepover, though!” Yaoyorozu claps her hands.

Jirou grimaces and tentatively changes her mind. “... Maybe not on a weeknight?”

“That’s a great idea!” Yaoyorozu exclaims.

“Yeah!” Izuku exclaims, trying not to bounce with Shouto in his arms.

“Oh my god.” Jirou huffs. “You two. Go to sleep.”

“Oh, right.” Yaoyorozu checks the time sheepishly.

“I just woke up.” Izuku tries.

Jirou gives him a venomous look.

“Okay, okay.” Izuku ducks away. “‘Night, guys.”

“Good night, Midoriya!” Yaoyorozu whispers brightly.

“Bi.” Jirou says flatly.

Izuku stops right before the stairs, trying to suss out if she’s punning at him.

Jirou rolls her eyes at him, but smiles a little.

Izuku grins and pushes the door to the stairs open with his shoulder. Friends really are nice things to have.

He slows down halfway up the staircase, his smile faltering.

A beam of moonlight cuts across Shouto’s face, illuminating his still features in a narrow stripe.

Does it make more sense to say that his quirk gave all their lives back, or that they were never lost in the first place?

It’s jarring, flipping back and forth between certain death and happy moments like this. He can’t figure out if it makes this calm more precious or more hollow.

Izuku bows his head, pressing his nose to the top of Shouto’s head.

He breathes him in, arms tightening around him. The warm, living weight of him presses against him, but Izuku doesn’t feel safe.

How many more times will he have to die? He’d do it again and again in a heartbeat— especially for Shouto— but he dreads it.


Izuku is back in that chair. Trapped, immobile under the drip, drip of ice water from the ceiling— Forced to watch and— Shigaraki’s quirk has a smell. Every detail is as crystal clear in his memory as if he were watching recorded video, but nothing compares to the smell when Shigaraki touches his hands to human flesh and Shouto’s skin vaporizes into the air molecule by molecule—

Izuku wakes up with a gasp, trapped in a cold, dark place.

He can’t quite breathe, something unyielding and cold is locked around his ribcage.

Someone gasps above his head— a hand presses over his breast, too hot, burning—

Izuku grabs that hand by the wrist, twisting it away from his skin. The kevlar fiber restraints shatter, remains glittering in the air like tiny ice crystals— Shouto whimpers, “Izuku—”

Wait.

Izuku breathes unsteadily, his eyes wide open but he’s not seeing what’s in front of him.

Shigaraki— he’s not— Izuku shudders, the bones of the wrist in his grip creaking. That’s over! It’s over!

“Izuku, I’m sorry,” Shouto gasps. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to— please—”

Shouto is leant over him, eyes wide and wet. His arm is bent into Izuku’s grip at a painful angle, but he doesn’t struggle. “I woke up and didn’t know where I was— I reacted on reflex. I’m sorry—”

Izuku looks down. There’s ice in his bed, going all the way up his wall, with a big hole in it where Izuku mindlessly powered through it. It glitters in the semidark of his bedroom, an All Might poster’s smile refracted through it at broken angles.

Shigaraki is not here. Safe. He’s safe.

“Izuku,” Shouto pleads. “I’m sorry, please.”

He’s hurting Shouto. The realization comes much too slowly to him.

Izuku sits up suddenly, ice cracking loudly where it still clings to him. He takes Shouto’s elbow, carefully loosening the grip of his other hand until Shouto relaxes. It’s harder to let go than it should be.

“I’m sorry.” Shouto says again.

Izuku traces the skin of Shouto’s wrist with shaking fingers. Izuku leans forward, pressing his lips to the abraded skin. It’s hot, already beginning to heal from a brand new bruise.

“Izuku,” Shouto calls gently.

Izuku shudders, reaching out with his other hand to paw at Shouto’s ribs. One… Two… He counts slowly, beginning again after he finishes.

Shouto cradles his cheek, rubbing his thumb under his wide open eye. “Can you talk to me? Izuku?”

Izuku shivers and turns his head to press his forehead to Shouto’s wrist. Stupid. He’s so stupid.

“I’m sorry.” Shouto says. “I wish I knew how to help you when you get like this. Just— just tell me what to do. Please, I’m sorry.”

“Not.” Izuku husks, swallowing roughly. “Not your fault.”

“I’m sorry.” Shouto repeats, sliding his hand into Izuku’s curls to cradle the back of his head. “I overreacted.”

Izuku tries to take a deep breath but sobs instead. He hunches in on himself and fists his hand in Shouto’s shirt. “N-no. My fault. My fault.”

“No,” Shouto soothes.

Izuku has no control over his own breathing. His chest hitches and shudders and Izuku sinks, helpless, as he begins to cry in big, gasping sobs.

Shouto wraps him up in his arms, tucking him under his chin. “Oh, Izuku,” he breathes. “I’m sorry.”

Izuku wants to push these feelings back down in the deep dark hidden places they came from, but they’ve completely taken him over. All he can do is shiver and cry as he wildly berates himself from within. Safe— safe— he’s safe dammit— This is stupid!

“You’re not stupid.” Shouto whispers into his hair. “You’re really clever, Izuku.”

Izuku grits his teeth, but his stupid body keeps right on crying anyway. He gasps and finally lets it out— “I’m scared. Shouto, Shouto, I’m so sorry— I let you get hurt—”

“No,” Shouto pets the nape of his neck. “That wasn’t your fault.”

“I’m scared it’s going to happen again.” Izuku shakes his head. He doesn’t understand!

“It’s okay if it does.” Shouto tells him gently.

This is surprising enough that Izuku chokes on his next inhale, startled out of his spiral for a moment. “Wh-what?”

“I know you didn’t mean it.” Shouto says. “It was just an accident.”

Izuku leans back so he can see his face.

Shouto pets his hair. “I knew you wake up violently. It was my fault for getting so close.”

Izuku is suddenly irate. “Do you think it’s your fault for all those times your shitbag father beat the shit out of you, too?” He snaps.

Shouto flinches, eyes widening. “I—”

Izuku deflates. Tears stream anew from his eyes. “Shit. I’m sorry. That was uncalled for—” Izuku wipes helplessly at his face. “I’m the shitbag.” He despairs.

Shouto drops his hands away from Izuku. He bows his head. “Endeavor is different.”

Izuku chokes wetly. “That’s— that’s— I don’t deserve you. I’m a mess. A fucking disaster waiting to happen—”

Shouto takes his hands. “Izuku, please. You’re literally the opposite of a domestic abuser in every way.”

Izuku sniffles and shakes his head. “You don’t understand!”

Shouto grips his hands tighter. “No, I do. My greatest fear, before literally anything else including dying— is becoming like my father.” Shouto squeezes his hands. “You’re nothing like him. I feel safe with you.” Shouto leans in and bumps their foreheads together. “Since that moment you smiled at me after the Sports Festival and offered me your number— I’ve known I’d be safe with you.”

Izuku thinks back to how wide Shouto’s eyes got when Shigaraki touched him. How his screams petered out into desperate choking noises.

“Y-you’re not safe. No one is fucking safe!”

Shouto leans back, squeezing his hands hard at the sudden outburst.

Izuku begins crying anew with hopeless little gasps. He tucks his chin into his chest and rocks.

“Izuku,” Shouto murmurs. “You’re not—”

“You don’t understand!” Izuku sobs. “I watched you die!”

Shouto is quiet for a moment. “... Is this what your nightmares are about?”

Izuku shakes his head helplessly. “It was my fault. It’s— it’s always my fucking fault. I’m so stupid.”

“Izuku—” Shouto shifts forward on his knees, leaning into him.

Izuku can see that he still doesn’t understand. He thinks he’s babbling nonsense.

Izuku swallows around an unyielding throat and lets go of Shouto’s hands so he can grab his face. “You have two quirks.” He points out breathlessly.

Shouto’s brow furrows, cheeks squished between Izuku’s trembling palms. “Well, one quirk, technically. Being a chimera—”

“I have two quirks.” Izuku says, looking back at him with wide eyes, willing him to understand.

Shouto’s brow furrows further. “... You do? Does it give you nightmares?”

Izuku laughs harshly, his throat clicking. “Why not! Sure! Along with the actual fucking experience, ‘cuz fuck me, right?”

Shouto reaches up to circle his wrists gently. “Okay.”

Izuku’s breath hitches again, but he holds it together by giggling hysterically. “Listen— listen to this. ‘Cuz I kid you not— I can fucking rewind time. Okay? That’s my quirk. It’s— it’s a fucking time manipulation quirk, okay?”

Shouto’s eyebrows tick upward. “That sounds very powerful.”

Izuku sniffles. He rubs his thumbs over Shouto’s cheeks. “Y-yeah— it’s—” Izuku hangs his head, unable to look at Shouto and his sweet, gentle eyes anymore. He chokes on a new sob.

“Izuku…” Shouto winds his arms around him. “What happened to you?”

“I watched you die.” Izuku shudders. “It was my fault. It was my stupid goddamn fault.”

For his part, Shouto doesn’t flinch or draw back. He pulls Izuku in closer. “I’m sorry you had to see that.” Shouto murmurs.

Izuku gasps and pushes his face into Shouto’s collarbone. “You don’t understand— if it hadn’t been for me—”

“I would be dead.” Shouto says with finality. He runs his hand down Izuku’s spine, soothing.

Izuku sniffles.

“That’s how it works doesn’t it?” Shouto asks. “Something bad happened so you erased it with your quirk.”

Swallowing roughly, Izuku wraps his arms around Shouto, pulling him close.

“So you fixed it.” Shouto reasons. “I’m sorry that you’ve had to suffer with the memory of it. I’ll try to do better.”

Izuku shakes his head weakly, rubbing his wet face all over Shouto’s neck. He doesn’t tell him that Izuku died too— that he has to die, every time. He doesn’t want Shouto to know that— if he knew the cost of this peace he couldn’t possibly be happy with it.

“Do you want to talk about it more? I’ll listen.” Shouto says, stroking at the nape of his neck.

Izuku tightens his arms around him. He growls. “Shigaraki. He— he’s the one who—.” And Tokoyami… and now Shinsou via All Might. The common denominator is Izuku’s fucking stupidity.

Shouto sighs softly, his fingers dragging through his curls. “Every time I think I have you figured out, I learn you’re even stronger than I imagined.” Shouto murmurs.

Izuku loosens his hold to listen intently.

“I don’t mean this lightly.” Shouto says, still stroking his hair. “But you’re even more of a hero to me than All Might is.”

Izuku flinches.

“You’re so nosy. And can’t keep yourself out of trouble for more than five minutes— but that’s where your charm is. Your heart is so big and so strong. You’re completely unafraid to walk around with it on display everywhere you go.”

“Shouto…” Izuku murmurs hesitantly.

Shouto tangles his fingers in his hair, wrapping one curl around his fingers over and over until it pulls gently at his scalp. “Thank you for saving me again, even though I don’t remember this time.”

Izuku sniffs and fists his hands in Shouto’s shirt. “I’m sorry—”

“I just hope you don’t feel you have to hide your pain from me.” Shouto says. He squeezes Izuku to his chest. “I want to help you, too. Any way that I can.”

Izuku snuffles at Shouto’s collarbone. “... You’re so good to me.”

Shouto pushes his nose into Izuku’s temple. “And I’m sorry— for icing you. I— I wake up violently, too, sometimes…”

Izuku huffs. “I’m fine.”

“But it’s my fault.”

Izuku huffs again in agitation. He backs up, opening his mouth—

Shouto is smirking.

Izuku narrows his eyes. “You’re turning my words against me.”

Shouto looks down and bites his lip. “... I just want to point out… neither of us is perfect. I, certainly, have a lot of improvements to make—”

Izuku scoffs.

Shouto tugs on his hair, smiling shyly. “You’re biased.”

Izuku harrumphs.

“W-we should—” Shouto swallows nervously and shakes his head. “Work on getting better together?”

Izuku slumps. He drags his hands around Shouto’s waist, back and forth, just to feel him. “... You’re so good to me.” He repeats forlornly.

Shouto blushes and ducks his head, bumping their foreheads together. “I-I’m glad you think so. Y-you’re— you too.”

Izuku sighs. He tips forward and kisses the corner of Shouto’s mouth— as far on the right side as he can go.

Shouto squeaks and a burst of steam shoots off the left side of his face violently enough to disturb both of their hair.

Izuku grins and nuzzles the side of his face. Even his right side is heating up with that blush. “You always know exactly what to say.” Izuku sighs. He’s not quite wholly happy yet, but he can smile, which is something.

He plants another kiss on his cheek before leaning back.

Shouto watches him with wide eyes, apparently struck speechless.

“C’mon,” Izuku coaxes. “The ice is melting and I’m very wet. Lemme get you out of those clothes, too. I didn’t think it was okay to change you out of your uniform since you were fast asleep.”

“W— well— I—” Shouto stammers.

Izuku wrinkles his nose at the dripping wall over his bed. “... The sheets, too.”

“I—” Shouto abruptly snaps his mouth shut. He nods rapidly and stares down at his own lap.

Izuku untangles himself from Shouto’s hold and stumbles over to his drawers. Now that he’s moving, he can feel where the ice burned his skin. It’s just a surface irritation.

“Here,” Izuku tosses an oversized All Might hoodie at Shouto. “Wear this. It’s fuzzy on the inside!”

“Oh.” Shouto says as he fumbles with the hoodie, his tone equal parts relieved and disappointed.

Izuku looks at him worriedly. “... Do you not like it?”

“N-no!” Shouto hugs the hoodie to his chest. “This is fine!”

Izuku picks out some All Might pajama pants and throws them at him too. He looks at him consideringly. Shouto is picking nervously at the top button of his shirt but not moving to undress.

Izuku tips his head to the side. “Hm,”

“What?” Shouto asks nervously, bunching up the clothes in his lap over and over again.

Izuku nods decisively. “You can borrow my clothes anytime you want.” Izuku would… like that, he thinks. He can’t think of a more obvious way of shouting to the world, ‘This one is mine!’ than getting Shouto to strut around in All Might paraphernalia. The image pleases him.

Izuku grabs the back of his own shirt and tugs it over his head onehanded, discarding it in the direction of the hamper his mom bought him when he moved out but has yet to actually contain any clothes, just gather them around its base.

“Uh,” Shouto makes a desperate choking noise when Izuku approaches the bed.

Izuku leans down and tugs on the end of the comforter Shouto is sitting on. “C’mon, I gotta change the sheets.”

“O-oh—” Shouto gasps and tumbles clumsily off the bed.

Izuku moves to catch him, watching worriedly, but he manages not to fall on his face on his own, albeit just barely.

“I’ll just— the bathroom— get changed—” Shouto gets his feet under him and then sprints into the little closet space they’re supposed to call a bathroom.

“Uh, okay!” Izuku calls after him right before Shouto slams the door.

Izuku frowns and sniffs himself. Is it his breath?

He’s changed the sheets, moved the bed a foot away from the slowly dripping wall, and strategically placed a trash can under the still melting ice when Shouto shuffles out of the bathroom.

Izuku flops down on the bed and looks him up and down.

Shouto stares back at him, fingers fiddling with the insides of his sleeves— Izuku knew he’d like the fuzzy hoodie.

“C’mere.” Izuku prompts from the bed, making grabby motions at him.

Shouto blushes right down to his collarbones, but he comes.

Izuku hums contentedly when Shouto folds himself into his arms. He lays his head down on his shoulder and tangles their legs together.

“You really are the best teddy bear.” Izuku tells him dreamily.

“D-do you— are you—” Shouto stammers, he’s holding his fingers off Izuku’s skin like he’s afraid he’ll burn him. “Did you forget… to put a shirt on?”

Izuku blinks. “... Do you want me to? My skin is kinda irritated— but I can put one on—”

“This is fine!” Shouto blurts. He balls up his hands into fists and hides them in his sleeves.

Izuku grins, realizing what the dilemma is. “Shouto…” He whines and completely fails to keep any deviousness out of his face. “I want a hug…”

Shouto covers his face. “Izuku…”

“You can touch me.” Izuku says slyly, blushing hard himself. “You’re such a good boyfriend, I couldn’t refuse you anything…”

“I-Izuku—” Shouto says. “We should sleep…”

Izuku pouts. “You’re right… Can you pet my hair, then? I like that.” He dials up the puppy eyes just in case.

Shouto relaxes marginally, his eyes skittering embarrassedly away from Izuku’s bare shoulders. He slides a hand into Izuku’s curls. “... I can do that.”

Izuku hums, muscles going lax as Shouto scrapes his fingernails over his scalp. “You really are the best.” Izuku tells him.

Shouto hesitates for a moment, then carefully plants a kiss on his forehead. He backs off immediately, left side heating up. “Y-you, too, Izuku…”


Izuku wakes up just in time to smack his alarm before it goes off. Shouto’s knee is digging painfully into his hip bone. Apparently this is going to be a Thing.

Izuku rubs at his face. He pushes up onto an elbow and takes a moment to drowsily observe his sleeping boyfriend.

He’s all swaddled up in Izuku’s All Might sheets, his All Might hoodie riding up around his neck, curled around one of Izuku’s arms like he’s a human body pillow.

Izuku dithers for a minute over the thought of taking a picture. He wants to… but he doesn’t have permission. Is that the sort of thing he’s allowed to do now that they’re boyfriends?

Izuku settles for committing the image to memory. He gently pushes Shouto’s hair off his face. Wow. He has a damn pretty face. Izuku wishes he didn’t hide so much of it.

Izuku sighs and leans away, sliding free from Shouto’s sleep-slack grip.

A splash of the wrong color catches his eye. Izuku leans back in and carefully snags the sleeve of the hoodie off of Shouto’s left wrist.

There’s a circle of bruises around his wrist shaped like perfect purple imprints of Izuku’s fingers. The joint is also swelling a little— it’s more than a bruise, it might be a sprain.

Izuku hisses through his teeth. He gently traces the damage with a finger.

Shouto never revealed that he had caused him this much pain.

Izuku rips away from the bed and tugs at his hair until tears gather in his eyes.

He had thought he was getting along fine on his own, but obviously not if this is the result. He hurt Shouto because he's an idiot.

He digs the heels of his palms into his eyes.

Maybe… he really does need help. He's certainly not doing that great a job on his own.

Izuku huffs unsteadily and shuffles back to the bed so he can paw uneasily at Shouto's hip, just needing the contact.

It soothes him to look at Shouto's sleeping face and count his breaths, but it's a fleeting peace.

It's a terrifying thought to realize that even the best boyfriend in the world isn't enough to banish his darkness forever. Instead, he’s let that darkness nip at Shouto’s undeserving heels.

Izuku bows his head and gently kisses Shouto's abused wrist.

He thinks back to how All Might and Aizawa-sensei have been hounding him about therapy. He never considered it because he can't see how talking out all the things he wants to forget could make them hurt less.

But maybe they know better than him.

Izuku scowls. He is still naturally adverse to the thought… but for Shouto he'd walk through fire.

Damn. When did Shouto get such a hold on him? He's way far gone on the boy and he didn't even notice when he tipped over the edge.


Izuku is muttering angrily through his warmups when Aizawa-sensei finds him in the gym.

“Midoriya,” he notes flatly. “You're here again.”

Izuku perks up and skids up to him. “Aizawa-sensei!” He shuffles under the growing glare. “G-good morning?”

“It's five AM.” Aizawa-sensei says. “Why are you awake?”

Izuku shrugs sheepishly. “I went to bed early?”

Aizawa-sensei rolls his eyes and mutters something that sounds an awful lot like, 'Morning people are Satan.’

“That's not very nice.” Izuku mutters back.

Aizawa-sensei glares at him. “Well, it's not very nice for my hapless students to be working themselves to the bone at godless hours, either.”

Izuku pouts. “That's got nothing to do with you…” He eyes Aizawa-sensei expectantly from under his lashes.

“It does when I'm their teacher.” Aizawa-sensei huffs.

Izuku grins and does a little dance. It's happening again!

Aizawa-sensei narrows his eyes at him. “What are you celebrating, Midoriya?”

Izuku sobers abruptly. He hides his hands behind his back. “Nothing. I mean. I'm really glad you’re my teacher, Aizawa-sensei!”

“Hm,” Aizawa-sensei is still glaring at him suspiciously. “That's your opinion.” He straightens up to grin menacingly. “So, you want me to teach you a lesson then, kid?”

Izuku just barely resists the temptation to pump his fists. “Yes! Aizawa-sensei!”

“Don't look so excited. This isn't going to be fun… for you.” Aizawa-sensei leans over him with his crooked grin.

Izuku bites his lip to stop from grinning. “Really?”

“Mhm.” Aizawa-sensei narrows his eyes at him. “Midoriya… how ‘bout a spar?”

Izuku pumps his fist. “Yes, sensei!”

Aizawa-sensei shakes his head in exasperation. “I told you. Don’t be so excited. After all… if you want to survive, you’ll have to give it your all.”

Izuku bounces on his toes. “Yes, sensei! Can we start?”

Aizawa-sensei glares at him. “You’re not afraid to die, are you? It doesn’t matter, though, since you’ll just get right up again, right?”

Izuku nods rapidly. “Yeah!”

Aizawa-sensei grabs him by the collar suddenly, lifting him off his feet and to his eye level faster than Izuku can react. “You.” He says darkly.

“Um.” Izuku hems nervously. This didn’t happen last time.

“You’ve lived through this before, haven’t you?” Aizawa-sensei growls.

“Er.” Izuku struggles weakly, testing Aizawa-sensei’s grip.

Aizawa-sensei shakes him sharply. “Goddammit, Midoriya!”

Izuku shrinks. “S-sorry?”

Aizawa-sensei puts him down roughly so he can pace in a tight circle. He reaches back to tug at his lopsided bun. “What was it this time? It had to do with the general ed kid, didn’t it? What did you do?”

Izuku shuffles and wrings his hands. Something in his stomach twists that feels alarmingly like anger. “I dunno why you’re complaining at me.” He snaps. “You don’t even know how many lives I saved— yours included!”

Aizawa-sensei stops to glare at him. “What did you say?”

Izuku is suddenly ashamed. He’s never talked back to a teacher like that before. He twists his fingers together until they strain. “I— I mean. I fixed it. I dunno w-why you have to be so disappointed in me when I made everything better.”

Aizawa-sensei tilts his head back and sighs at the ceiling. “I’m not disappointed in you, Midoriya.”

Izuku purses his lips. “It’s not nice to lie, Aizawa-sensei.” He mutters mulishly. He glares at the floor and continues wringing his hands.

Aizawa-sensei slumps and rubs his temples, his eyes closed. After a moment, he opens them again and says in a much calmer voice, “You’re right, I am disappointed. But I’m disappointed in myself, not you.”

Izuku frowns. He shifts uneasily on his feet. “But you didn’t do anything—”

“Yes, exactly.” Aizawa-sensei cuts him off. He makes a harsh cutting motion with his hands. “Do you understand what it means when you need to use that quirk?”

Izuku twiddles his thumbs. “Um—”

“It means I failed.” Aizawa-sensei says, his voice slightly raised. “I’m your teacher. I’m supposed to protect you. But I’ve failed so spectacularly on multiple occasions that if it weren’t for the fact that you can literally resurrect yourself, you’d be dead!”

Izuku hunches. “Um, Aizawa-sensei—”

“Don’t start. God,” Aizawa-sensei tugs at his own hair in agitation. “I noticed that stupid self-sacrificial streak from day one, Midoriya. I should have expelled you in the beginning.”

Izuku gapes breathlessly. No!

Aizawa-sensei runs both hands over his face with a growl. “Ugh, don’t look like that. I’m not going to expel you now. But for fuck’s sake, you’re going to do what I goddamn tell you or I will.”

Izuku bites his lip. “Um, if this is about the therapy thing. I have been thinking about it…” Izuku rubs the back of his neck and thinks of Shouto, sleeping peacefully upstairs with a swollen wrist. It’s lucky that Izuku didn’t hurt him more. “It’s… Do you really think it will help?”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “It’s really up to you whether it will help or not. That’s something I can’t force you to do.”

Izuku frowns. “... Right.”

Aizawa-sensei rubs his temples. “For now, I’d appreciate it if you’d—”

He cuts off when an alarm suddenly starts blaring.

A blue light from one of the boxes high up on the wall starts flashing— it’s not the fire alarm.

“Um, Aizawa-sensei?” Izuku ventures uncertainly.

Aizawa-sensei makes an aggrieved sound. “There’s a fucking intruder, of all times—”

“You shouldn’t curse in front of students…” Izuku mutters quietly.

“You.” Aizawa-sensei rounds on him suddenly. “I’m not letting you out of my sight.” He grabs him by the back of his neck. “You know what’s going on, don’t you?”

“Um,” Izuku hunches under Aizawa-sensei’s unyielding grip. “This didn’t happen last time…”

“Dammit.” Aizawa-sensei growls. “Come with me. There’s no way I can trust you to go to the panic room sensibly like the rest of the students.”

Izuku squeaks as Aizawa-sensei nearly tugs him off his feet as he leads him out of the gym and up the stairs. “A-aizawa-sensei, your legs are a lot longer than mine!”

“Then use your quirk, you brat.” Aizawa-sensei retorts, distracted with scanning the place for enemies.

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT.” Bakugou comes charging out of the kitchen once they get upstairs.

Kirishima and Sero are shuffling around with bedhead, barely aware of their surroundings, when Iida suddenly bursts from the stairway like a cannonball from a portside cannon.

“INTRUDER ALERT!” Iida yells, waving his arms like a runway signaler.

“Oh geez,” Kirishima clutches his heart and Sero drowsily comes to attention, lifting his elbows out like he’s ready to lasso any interloper with his eyes half-closed.

“Class Rep,” Aizawa-sensei orders gruffly. “Get everyone to the panic room. You remember the code?”

Iida salutes. “Yes, sensei!”

“WAIT!” Bakugou yells after them as Aizawa-sensei continues to drag Izuku out of the building. “WHERE THE FUCK IS DEKU GOING?”

Aizawa-sensei ignores them and switches to pushing Izuku from behind. He keeps them close to the walls of the building, doing a full circuit and checking every corner before he considers the 1-A building safe.

“Must be somewhere else.” Aizawa-sensei mutters.

“I can jump up on the roof and have a look?” Izuku offers.

“No.” Aizawa-sensei shoots him down firmly.

Izuku pouts. “Well… The traitor was after All Might. Maybe we should look for him?”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. He pulls out his phone and taps at it for a moment.

Izuku stands on tippy toe to see what he’s doing, but Aizawa-sensei pushes him back down with a hand on his head and a quelling glare.

Aizawa-sensei must get the answer he’s looking for, because he sucks air in through his teeth with a hiss. “The quad.”

Izuku moves to go, but Aizawa-sensei snags him by the collar and nearly chokes him.

“Midoriya, if you run off I will expel you.”

Izuku huffs. “Well, are you coming then?”

Aizawa-sensei makes an aggravated noise. “Fine, we’re going. But don’t leave my sight and if you try to fight anyone I will turn your quirk off. If you get stabbed it’s your fault.”

“Yes, sensei.” Izuku salutes.

Aizawa-sensei rolls his eyes and then starts to run, motioning for Izuku to follow.

When they reach the quad, Izuku forgets Aizawa-sensei’s threats and immediately tries to dive into the fray, only to nearly choke again when his sensei grabs him by the collar.

“A-aizawa-sensei—” Izuku struggles.

“I see it.” Aizawa-sensei hisses. “Calm down.”

Aizawa-sensei pushes Izuku behind himself, but stands like he’s ready to spring from his place just beyond hedge bordering the central quad.

He’s not the only faculty member waiting in the wings. Every pro on the UA payroll is circling the scene, wary of making sudden movements.

The reason why is clear.

Shinsou Hitoshi has a gun and he’s pointing it at All Might.

The boy is dressed in the same clothes he was wearing yesterday, looking rumpled and pale. From where Izuku is standing, he can see his hands shake around his grip on the pistol.

All Might is standing carefully still in his muscled form, his hands up in the universal sign of surrender.

“We have to help him!” Izuku whispers urgently.

Aizawa-sensei pushes down on his shoulder more firmly. “That kid’s supposed to be in confinement. Some idiot must have let him use his quirk… That’s a police issue Glock. Must have been one of the officers.”

Izuku growls. Izuku is all for analyzing the situation, but that’s not helping. “Aizawa-sensei! He’s got a gun!”

“Shh,” Aizawa-sensei shushes him.

“Stay back!” Shinsou screeches when All Might takes one measly step forward. “You can’t stop me!”

“Aizawa-sensei—”

“Quiet, Midoriya. We need to make an opening for Nemuri.” Aizawa-sensei whispers harshly. “Look. Use your brain.”

Izuku quiets and tries to tamp down the panic at seeing his idol in mortal danger. He considers the scene.

If they don’t want to hurt a student— traitor or not, he’s still a minor— then Midnight’s quirk is clearly the best option they have, that’s easy to see.

But she needs to be in relatively close quarters to be effective and Shinsou and All Might are firmly in the middle of the soccer field-sized quad, with no obstacles to hide an approach behind.

Izuku looks around until he can pinpoint her location.

Midnight is edging around the side in the shade of the trees lining the space, trying to get behind Shinsou undetected.

Izuku huffs. “She can’t just run up from behind, Shinsou will hear her.” He mutters. “Unless she takes off the heels.”

“Don’t underestimate her.” Aizawa-sensei admonishes. “She can be stealthy when she needs to be.”

“I can distract him.” Izuku decides.

“Midoriya, no.”

Izuku wiggles under Aizawa-sensei’s hand in frustration.

“I’m gonna do it!” Shinsou screams.

Izuku frowns at how his voice cracks, his screech echoing across the open air. He sounds like a guy at the end of his rope.

“I have to!” Shinsou says, but he still doesn’t pull the trigger.

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “All Might can’t talk him down. Not with that quirk.”

Izuku pokes him in the side insistently. “You can just turn it off, though!”

“Already there, Midoriya. All Might just doesn’t know it yet.” Aizawa-sensei hasn’t looked away from Shinsou since he arrived. “But we still have the problem of the gun.”

Izuku thinks for another second. “I’m really fast.”

“Midoriya, no.”

“I am!” Izuku insists. “I can probably grab it before he even knows I’m there!”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “All Might’s faster than you, why hasn’t he done the same thing?” He reasons.

Izuku frowns. He looks back at where All Might is standing calmly. His face is… gentle. And sad. “All Might is…” Izuku starts uncertainly.

“Safer than you think.” Aizawa-sensei finishes for him. “Have more faith in the pros, Midoriya.”

Izuku relents with a huff. He just wants to help.

Izuku starts back up again with another couple seconds of thought. “What if I just get behind All Might?”

Aizawa-sensei hums inquisitively.

“Well, All Might doesn’t know you’re here yet. He doesn’t know the plan at all. He can do a lot more if he knows, right?” Izuku reasons rapidly, expecting Aizawa-sensei to cut him off again. “So I can let him know. And I’m really fast, so Shinsou won’t have time to shoot me before I just hide behind All Might and then I’ll be behind All Might and totally safe, right?”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “It’s a good plan.” He agrees begrudgingly.

Izuku wiggles giddily and tries to launch himself forward again. “Hurk—” Aizawa-sensei does not let him go. He needs to stop doing that…

“If,” Aizawa-sensei says darkly. “You do not use your unlicensed quirk to fight and you do not in any way endanger yourself or others— if you only use your quirk to relay information and then hide behind the adult pro hero, I will let you go.”

Izuku nods rapidly. “Okay! Okay! I’ll do what you said!”

“You better.” Aizawa-sensei threatens, and finally releases him.

Not about to wait for Aizawa-sensei to change his mind, Izuku bolts. He skids sharply into a tree, ricocheting off its trunk to give himself as much speed as possible before he breaks into the open air of the quad.

He doesn’t bother much with carefully angling his approach, he’s going way faster than Shinsou can react and just fast enough for All Might to have a cup of tea while he waits.

He bunny hops off the pavement once— twice— and crashes into All Might’s shoulder, using his remaining momentum to swing around onto his back, hands fisting in his tweed suit jacket from behind.

“I am here!” He greets with more cheer than the situation warrants, giving All Might a grin in the split second he’s in his line of sight.

“Wh— stop!” Shinsou twitches, eyes wide and bloodshot, but he still doesn’t pull the trigger.

For his part, All Might doesn’t move an inch.

Izuku plants his feet in the small of All Might’s back and peeks cautiously over his shoulder.

“Young Midoriya…” All Might hisses a warning.

Shinsou is breathing rapidly and shaking like a kitten in a snowstorm. Izuku frowns.

“His quirk is off.” Izuku whispers to All Might.

“Keep your head down.” All Might whispers back urgently.

Izuku gives Shinsou another considering glare and only ducks a little.

“Stop talking!” Shinsou commands. “I’ll shoot!”

Izuku narrows his eyes.

“Young man,” All Might begins gently.

“His name is Shinsou.” Izuku whispers.

“Young Shinsou,” All Might corrects. “If you could just put the weapon down, we could resolve this peacefully—”

“Shut up!” Shinsou’s voice cracks. “Destroy UA!”

A beat passes and Shinsou goes impossibly paler when All Might doesn't move to obey.

Izuku shifts uneasily as a tear slides down Shinsou’s cheek from his wide open eye. It’s a little difficult to consider the guy an enemy when his face is full of pure, naked fear.

“Young Shinsou,” All Might says gently. “I know you don’t want to hurt anyone. If you let me help, we can solve this together.”

“I already have a solution!” Shinsou screeches and gestures with the gun at All Might. “You’re all they want! So— I just—”

“Who’s they?” Izuku wonders.

All Might hisses at him.

Shinsou laughs shortly, more a sharp exhale than mirth. “The League of fucking Villains. Who else?”

Izuku hums and props his chin on All Might’s shoulder. “So, are they paying you or did you join up on your own?”

“Midoriya…” All Might whispers warningly.

“Fuck off!” Shinsou yells. “You destroy UA!”

Izuku is sharply reminded why he reset this timeline last time. The thought that he'd be the one to cause all that destruction makes him violently sick.

He tries to leap for Shinsou’s face in a sudden rage.

All Might grabs him by his ankle as he’s trying to clamber over his shoulder, anchoring Izuku behind his back one handed.

“How dare you. How can you live with yourself?” Izuku snarls, still trying to kick out of All Might’s hold. “Do the lives of your classmates and teachers, all these people helping you to succeed, mean nothing to you?”

Shinsou grimaces. “Maybe it means something to you. But for me it's just a reminder of where I can't go. In this world your worth is determined at birth!”

Izuku hisses. “It's true. You were born a coward and a quitter.”

“Young Midoriya!” All Might admonishes.

Izuku freezes when Shinsou sobs.

Taking one hand off the gun to rub roughly at his face, Shinsou agrees tremulously. “You're right. Fuck. I know. B-but I can't— I have to.”

Izuku relents, a little sheepish. He didn't mean to make the guy cry. Even if he is a traitor. “Um, Shinsou—”

All Might clears his throat pointedly to interrupt him. “Young Shinsou, I can see you feel remorse. It is not too late to be forgiven. I just need you to put the gun down and we can have a talk about the correct course of action.”

Shinsou sniffs and shakes his head, still holding the gun up. “You know you've got spies in your school, right? It's already too late. They've been watching all along.”

“Whatever they are holding against you,” All Might reasons gently. “We have the resources to help you. We just need you to work with us.”

Shinsou takes a big breath in and releases it in a long, controlled exhale. He squares his shoulders. “Who. It’s who. And it’s too late for her. Highspeed internet is really shit, you know? Word travels fast.”

Izuku can feel All Might’s growing uncertainty in the tensing of his shoulders. “Young Shinsou, if there is any threat to your family—”

“They took her three months ago.” Shinsou spits. “Three months and the pros did fucking nothing!” Shinsou’s knees wobble. He sways as he readjusts his stance. “Three months. So don’t fucking talk to me about how you can help now. No one can fucking help.”

Izuku inhales sharply.

Shinsou grits his teeth. “I— I have to do this. I don’t care if I go to jail, I just— I can’t let them hurt my little sister anymore.”

Izuku grimaces and lifts his head. “How many people would you kill for just one person?” Izuku, unfortunately enough, can see the logic. Being a hero for the public like All Might is hard. It’s the hardest thing he can think of— but being a hero for just one person? That’s the easiest thing in the world. Izuku would kill without a thought for his mom. He’d do the same for Shouto and All Might, maybe even for some of his new friends.

Shinsou swallows, his purple eyes briefly locking with Izuku’s. “As many as it takes.” Shinsou winces and adds quietly. “Including me.”

Izuku registers the hardening of Shinsou’s expression a split second before he pulls the trigger.

“No!” He screams, drowned out by the deafening bang of the gun.

It’s over in milliseconds. Even with One For All activated Izuku barely registers what happens.

All Might never lets go of Izuku’s ankle, so he’s trapped and useless behind his back despite straining to jump in the way with all his strength. All Might’s other arm flashes through the air, sending up a wind that buffets the trees all the way across the courtyard, but doesn’t do any damage.

Izuku flinches at a second cracking sound. He looks over his shoulder to see a tiny smoking crater in the concrete a couple feet back and to the left, a glint of shattered metal in its center.

Did All Might just slap a bullet out of the air at point blank? Izuku gapes. He has to admit this is a great time to be reminded how cool his favorite hero is.

“Shit.” Shinsou whispers with feeling.

All Might is frowning thunderously. “I’ll have to ask you to not do that again. You could have injured Young Midoriya.”

Shinsou pants harshly and backs up a couple steps. “Goddamit. I failed again—” He tugs harshly at his hair. “I can’t fail again.”

He looks around at the circling pros, eyes wild. “There’s nothing I can do— there’s nothing— they’re going to hurt her again.”

“Young Shinsou—” All Might calls gently, waving his free hand placatingly. “We can help your sister—”

“She’s only five years old!” Shinsou suddenly screeches. “And she’s been gone for three months!”

Izuku shifts uneasily, testing All Might’s grip. “Why haven’t I heard of this?”

“It’s not something you should have concerned yourself with, Youn—”

“Kidnappings happen all the time, right?” Shinsou exclaims wildly. “Heroes don’t bother with the non-flashy stuff like detective work and the actual detectives fucking suck.”

“Sounds pretty concerning…” Izuku mutters. He wonders what an investigative hero like Nighteye would do… but there’s only one hero like Nighteye, really.

“Fuck.” Shinsou looks around the edges of the quad again, causing Midnight to duck behind a bush. “If I can’t—” He tugs at his hair. His voice wobbles. “I can’t be the cause of her pain anymore.” The arm holding the gun slowly retracts.

All Might reacts far before Izuku does.

Izuku hits the ground awkwardly when All Might releases him to leap forward, but he recovers just in time to see Shinsou’s brains splatter on the pavement with a deafening bang.

“Oh.” Izuku swallows, stumbling where he stands, chest hollow.

All Might kneels over where Shinsou has fallen, his shoulders drooping.

“D— don’t,” All Might’s voice cracks when Izuku steps around him. “You don’t need to see, Young Midoriya.”

Izuku winces as he takes in Shinsou’s prone form, limbs splayed like a photograph of a bird in flight— not meant to be still, but caught for eternity.

Izuku touches All Might’s enormous shoulder when All Might hangs his head.

“I’m getting slower.” All Might despairs. He covers his face with one oversized hand. “I could see he was distressed. It was my fault for not acting immediately…”

Izuku winces.

No. His gaze alights on the gun. Flung free from Shinsou’s grip when he dropped, it’s lying on the ground inches from Izuku’s feet.

Shinsou was willing to kill as many as it took to save just one person. Twisted though it is, Izuku can understand that. There’s a sick nobility in it— is it selfish or selfless to have so little regard for your own worth? Who the hero is in that situation is all a matter of perspective.

Izuku leans down.

Even in this, Izuku can sympathize with Shinsou’s plight.

But he has a very special advantage.

“Midoriya!” Izuku straightens up as Aizawa-sensei roars at him from across the quad. He blinks at his teacher running at him full tilt. “Don’t you dare!”

He’s half a football field away and running at normal human speed— he’ll never make it in time.

This was never All Might’s fault. Izuku grimaces sheepishly as he lifts the gun up. If he could stop it all along… technically it was Izuku’s fault from the very beginning.

All Might makes the mistake of looking at Aizawa-sensei first instead of Izuku.

Izuku pulls the trigger while he can— now that he knows there’s two lives out there to save, he doesn’t see any other option.


Shinsou relaxes his stance, tipping backwards slightly on his heels. “Heh,” he huffs. “You’re a funny one, Mido—”

Izuku stands up from his crouch, grabbing Shinsou by the collar as he goes.

It’s very convenient that his room is only on the second floor— he can take Shinsou there in one jump.

“Wuh—” Shinsou makes a bewildered whimpering noise when Izuku opens his balcony door and swings him into his room with enough force he trips and tumbles onto the rug.

Izuku follows him in, shutting the door behind him with a slam. He rubs at his temples where a sharp rhythm of pain has begun again. He’s technically rewound by several hours less than the last time, but apparently even this much is problematic.

“What—” Shinsou scrambles up onto his knees. “What the hell, Mido—”

Izuku plants a foot in the middle of his back and forces him back down, cheek to the floor.

Izuku opens his mouth, thinks for a moment, and then closes it to grind his teeth. There are some very pointed words he wants to have with this boy, but his quirk is frustrating in more ways than one.

He settles for making an irate strangling motion at him and growling.

“Wh— Midoriya, what are you doing?”

Izuku huffs. Saving an idiot.

Shinsou makes a nervous wheezing sound that might have been a laugh on a better day. “Midoriya… gotta say I wasn’t expecting you to be the caveman type.”

Izuku makes his wordless strangling motion again.

“Heh. What’s the matter?” Shinsou smirks, gaining steam. “Got nothing to say, huh? Not a single thought in that head?”

Izuku nearly snaps at him but manages to cut himself off with a growl and tugs at his own hair. What is he supposed to do from here?

Sighing, Izuku covers his face and thinks for a moment. He needs more information— about the League’s plans and the hostage.

“What?” Shinsou struggles under his foot for a moment, trying to turn around. “Hey, hey, you’re muttering. I can’t hear you—”

Izuku shakes his head and pulls out his phone. This will have to do.

He opens a notepad app and types, “Where is your sister?”

When he bends down to shove this message in Shinsou’s face, the boy freezes up.

Izuku tilts his head as Shinsou’s mouth presses into a thin line. He was so talkative before; it’s odd that he chooses now to be quiet.

He takes the phone back to type another message. “Why do the League want you to destroy UA?”

Shinsou flinches when he sees it.

Izuku raises an eyebrow and pointedly wiggles his phone in his face.

“How do you know about that?” Shinsou swallows. Shinsou stares at the floor, face frozen. “I— I don’t actually— they have my sister. Please—”

Izuku nods hurriedly and gives him a consoling pat on the head. He wiggles the phone insistently.

Shinsou winces. “They’re— they’re punishing me. I f-failed the first time and then a second time— that guy, with the hands— he just wants to hurt me. The fact that he can hurt All Might in the process is just a bonus to him, I think…”

Izuku frowns. He thinks for a moment, stymied for a bit by the jumble of his memories— in what order did all the bullshit happen again? Time manipulation, ugh…

He types another message. “If Yaoyorozu was last attempt, what was first?”

Shinsou picks lint out of his rug, eyes skittering away from Izuku’s gaze. “The training camp. They just wanted the location and I—” Shinsou winces. “They said they only wanted Bakugou, so I thought— Nobody likes that guy anyway—”

Izuku scowls. He tugs at his lower lip in thought. This traitor business goes back further than he imagined. The training camp was all the way back in the beginning of summer. … Approximately three months ago, when his sister was kidnapped. Damn.

Shinsou sighs. “But the fucking League messed it up. They got caught by the pros— and they blamed me. I didn’t even—” Shinsou cuts himself off to fist at the carpet, his face a rictus of self hatred. “God, knowing what I know now I wish I had given them away. At least then— at least they would have hurt her for a reason, you know?”

Izuku shakes his head and types out another message. “Why Kacchan?”

“What’s a Kacch—”

Izuku huffs and pulls the phone back to correct it to, “Why Bakugou?”

Shinsou shrugs as well as he can with Izuku’s foot between his shoulder blades. “I dunno. Never cared to find out, really.”

Izuku frowns. Could Bakugou still be a target?

“Hey, Midoriya, you’ve got a text.” Shinsou notes blandly.

Izuku startles and turns his phone around.

“Where did you go? — Shouto.”

Izuku blinks. Despite everything his lips twitch into a brief smile. He debates the merits of explaining to Shouto how unnecessary signing every text is, but it’s cute enough to let the habit lie.

He texts back, “In my room.” with an unnecessary number of emojis. He hopes Shouto interprets that with a suitable explanation on his own. He doesn’t want to have to lie to him.

“So…” Shinsou drawls after a moment. “What exactly is your plan here, Midoriya? Gonna turn me in?”

Izuku raises his eyebrows at him. He definitely won’t be doing that, considering how the last time went. Izuku shakes his head and types out a new message, whipping it into his face with an irritated huff.

“Gonna save your sister so you don’t have to be an idiot anymore.”

Shinsou scowls. “Yeah, sure, pros have been at it for months and all I’ve got is concerned looks from the useless local police. You know they hand out certificates for missing children? It’s so fucking common they have official paperwork for just verifying you’ve got a real missing child ‘cuz schools won’t believe your fucking parents; they’ve heard the excuse so often—” Shinsou cuts himself off with a choked sound. His eyes screw up and he claws at the carpet. “Th— three months. Three months— and you think you can just—”

Izuku frowns. “Didn’t you tell them the League has her?” If they knew a girl had been taken by the League of Villains, at least the case should have been bumped up in priority.

Shinsou laughs harshly. “I did in the beginning— but I didn’t have any proof. They just called me on the phone so I could hear her—” Shinsou grits his teeth. “And I can’t now. They’ll— god, fuck, Midoriya, you can’t tell anyone you’ve caught me, okay? I don’t care what you do to me.” Shinsou pleads. “Just don’t let them know I failed again— I can’t— I can’t be the cause of—”

Izuku shakes his head. He types a new message. “Gonna save sister.”

“Her name is Hibari.” Shinsou snaps at him. “And you’re a fucking idiot. What can you do?”

Izuku huffs at him. Retry until he succeeds… obviously.

Izuku freezes at a knock on his door. He looks guiltily around his room, suddenly aware he can’t justify this to an outsider. What would he say? He can’t lie around a visibly kidnapped 1-C student, but the truth is he’s personally dealing with a UA security situation which is definitely not his jurisdiction...

“Heh,” Shinsou smirks at him. “How you gonna explain this, Midoriya?”

“Um, Midoriya?” A feminine voice calls from the opposite side of the door. “Are you in there?”

Shinsou takes a deep breath. “Help! I’m— Gack!”

Izuku presses all the air out of him in alarm.

“Midoriya?” The voice calls again.

Izuku huffs and scrubs rapidly at his hair. Dammit.

He leans down and picks Shinsou up by his collar and drags him into his desk chair, Full Cowl activated so he can go as fast as possible.

He’s retrieved the duct tape from his desk and is taping Shinsou’s limbs together before he can react enough to start flailing.

“Dude— c’mon—”

Izuku tapes over his mouth.

He shakes a stern finger in his face, warning him to be quiet.

Shinsou glares back at him and pointedly jerks his arms, causing the chair to spin from where he’s taped to the armrests.

Izuku sighs and wipes at his forehead, hoping he doesn’t look too suspicious.

He opens the door a crack, wedging his cheek against the door jamb and peeking out with one eye. “Yeah?”

“Um, hello, Midoriya!” Yaoyorozu greets nervously. She bows a little, overly polite.

Izuku squints around, but he can’t see anyone with her. He shifts nervously, hoping Yaoyorozu can’t see any of Shinsou over his head. He would make a much better obstruction if he wasn’t so short, dammit.

“Um,” Yaoyorozu says.

“Did you need something?” Izuku tries to smile nicely but only manages a grimace. He’s really not in a mindset capable of pleasantries.

“Have I come at a bad time?” Yaoyorozu wonders. “It’s okay if you’re busy! I just, um, wanted to talk to you and you’re actually kind of difficult to find alone—” Yaoyorozu cuts herself off to laugh nervously and tug at her ponytail. “Not that I’ve been, like, stalking you or anything! I just, um, for this conversation I’d prefer privacy, so…”

“Uh,” Izuku hedges. “... No?”

“Oh! Good!” Yaoyorozu nods and wrings her hands. “In that case, um… is it okay if I come in?”

Izuku winces. “N-no?”

“Oh.” Yaoyorozu wilts dejectedly. “Th-that’s okay. Well, I just— I wanted to apologize—”

Oh, damn. He totally forgot about this.

Izuku bangs his head against the door jamb.

Yaoyorozu jumps. “M-midoriya?”

“I’m not mad at you.” Izuku snaps.

“Oh,” Yaoyorozu hunches her shoulders and nods, slightly bewildered.

Izuku is not going to convince her with that tone. He takes a deep calming breath.

“I’m just, uh…” Izuku flounders. “... a little stressed right now. Sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

“Oh!” Yaoyorozu smiles. “That’s okay! I understand.”

“Right.” Izuku stares at her, hoping she’ll leave soon. “That’s settled then.”

“I just wanted to let you know that whatever I did— or, um! Whatever is causing you stress— I would like to remedy it if I can—”

Izuku sighs. “Yaoyorozu.”

“Oh! Yes, Midoriya?” Yaoyorozu straightens up.

“Nevermind.” Izuku says. “This is a bad time. Can we talk about this later?”

“Oh.” Yaoyorozu stammers nervously. “Of course! I didn’t mean to interrupt—”

Izuku freezes at the sudden crash of something heavy and solid hitting the floor behind him.

Shinsou groans in pain.

“Ah— Midoriya?” Yaoyorozu cranes to see through the crack in his door. “What was that?”

“Uh,” Izuku snaps a quick glance over his shoulder.

Shinsou has managed to knock himself over and he’s lying on his side still taped to the desk chair, wheels spinning in the air.

“N-nothing.” Izuku says the moment Yaoyorozu pushes the door open.

Izuku groans as Yaoyorozu has very obviously spotted his kidnapping victim. Damn, why is she so tall?

Yaoyorozu stares at Shinsou tied up on the floor for a second.

Izuku shifts on his feet nervously. “Uh. I can explain—”

Yaoyorozu pulls out her phone, hits speed dial, and brings it to her ear.

Izuku is alarmed. “Uh? H-hang on— let’s not jump to conclusions—” Izuku laughs nervously.

Shinsou makes a muffled grunting noise in response, refuting him.

“You’re not calling the police, right? O-or A-aizawa-s-sensei?” Izuku wrings his hands. “I swear there’s a good explanation for this!”

Yaoyorozu holds her hand up to him in the universal ‘I’m on the phone’ gesture. “Hello?” She says. “Your boyfriend is doing something reckless. Please, come up here. I’m not qualified to deal with this.”

Izuku sighs in relief. “Oh— just Shouto—” His anxiety ratchets right back up again upon his next thought. “Wait!” He waves his hands frantically. “Don’t bring Shouto up here! There’s no way he’ll leave me alone once he knows what’s going on!”

“Yes.” Yaoyorozu says into the phone. “I really have no idea. Alright.” She hangs up the phone and turns to Izuku. “And that’s the point, Midoriya.” Yaoyorozu responds belatedly.

Izuku groans.

Shinsou makes a mocking huffing noise.

Izuku glares at him.

Yaoyorozu sighs. “Can we at least help him up off the floor?”

“He got there himself; he deserves it.” Izuku grumbles heatedly.

Yaoyorozu gives him a disappointed look.

“Oh, for— Fine, let’s be nice to the traitor.” Izuku mutters and stomps over to turn Shinsou right side up.

Shinsou’s got a smug look in his eye.

Growling, Izuku wags a finger in his face. “If you hurt any of them, I’ll rip your tongue out with my bare hands.” He whispers to him and means it.

He can just erase it afterwards if Shinsou causes problems, but he’d rather not have to.

Shinsou blinks, a little wide eyed. At least he stops looking so smug.

Shouto shows up with every single one of his friends behind him. Which, honestly, Izuku is expecting at his point. Shouto’s really the only loner in their group.

Izuku gives a huge sigh when Uraraka, Iida, and Tsuyu file into his room one after the other and each make different faces at the sight of Shinsou duck taped to a chair. Great.

“Midoriya!” Iida scolds him as Shouto crosses his arms and furrows his brows at his captive. “This is highly inadvisable! You of all people should know the proper way to treat your classmates—”

Izuku rolls his eyes. Oh, well. There’s no way he can come up with a lie to cover this. “He’s a traitor for the League of Villains.”

That shuts Iida up right quick.

Shouto looks at him sharply. “You’re sure?”

Izuku juts his chin at Shinsou. “He was trying to get information about All Might from me. He’s working for them.”

Shouto turns narrowed eyes on Shinsou.

“This sounds like something we should bring to the attention of the teachers.” Yaoyorozu says nervously, hugging her arms to herself.

“I agree with Yaoyorozu. This is well outside of the jurisdiction of the students.” Iida says, frowning thunderously in both Izuku’s and Shinsou’s directions now.

“Oh!” Uraraka realizes. “Deku, you’re waiting for All Might, right? Is that why you brought him here?”

Izuku agrees shiftily. He knows a good excuse when he hears one. “Uh. Yeah…”

Shouto turns to glare at him and shakes his head a little.

Izuku winces. Shouto can definitely tell when he’s lying. He’s almost as scary as Aizawa-sensei.

Izuku shifts nervously. He needs to get his friends out of the situation— preferably with the impression that all is well. Each and every one of them will either jump to mess up his plans or join his plans, respectively, but he can’t protect them if they’re all up in his business either way.

“So…” Izuku drawls. “I already called All Might and he’s totally on his way… so, as you can see I’ve got everything covered and you guys can, um, go do something else…” Izuku tries.

Shouto glares at him with steadily increasing intensity.

“No way!” Uraraka declares. “We’re gonna help you!”

Iida adjusts his glasses. “I agree. You should not be alone with such a dangerous individual.”

Shouto uncrosses his arms and tightly grasps Izuku’s hand with his own. He glares Izuku down, very clearly telling him what will happen if he tries to escape with his gaze alone.

“While we’re here, we should have a talk with our traitor, right, kero?” Tsuyu says.

Izuku jumps, not having realized how close Tsuyu has gotten to Shinsou. “Wait—”

Tsuyu rips the tape off his face.

“I’m not a traitor!” Shinsou snarls. “I’m being blackmailed!”

“Oh, kero,” Tsuyu turns to Izuku with a blandly apologetic look. “You’re such a bad liar, Midoriya, I thought you might be lying about that, too.”

Izuku winces.

“Deku!” Uraraka smacks him on the shoulder.

“This is clearly a complicated situation!” Iida declares. “We should wait for All Might before we—”

“I— I don’t think All Might is coming…” Yaoyorozu flicks her eyes in Izuku’s direction sheepishly.

“Wh-what do you mean—” Iida splutters. He gasps. “Midoriya!”

Izuku shrugs apologetically.

Shouto spends a full minute frowning at Shinsou before he opens his mouth, ignoring Iida’s ongoing lecture about honesty and the value of adult supervision. “What are they blackmailing you with?”

Izuku hisses and slaps a hand over Shouto’s mouth too late. “Don’t talk to him! His quirk activates when you respond to him!”

Shinsou rolls his eyes. “Relax, Midoriya. It’s not like there’s a point; I’m already caught.”

Izuku growls and tightens his grip on Shouto’s face. He won’t let him get hurt.

Shinsou sighs, rolling his whole head on his shoulders with an air of bone deep exhaustion. “They sent me a video. I’ve got it on my phone if you wanna see.”

Izuku snatches the phone Tsuyu digs out of Shinsou’s pocket, holding it close so only he can see it. He’s got an idea of what’s on there and it’s probably not pretty.

There is indeed a video in his recent messages. It’s accompanied by a text, “We’re always watching.”

Izuku opens the video attachment.

The first thing he registers is the sound of a child crying— a little girl, offscreen. The image tilts and swings up from a dusty floor, revealing a dimly lit space with brick walls and wood paneling behind a bar. Shelving on the wall holds rows of alcohol bottles he couldn’t name but he suspects are expensive given the presentation.

There’s a picture of Izuku up on one wall taped to a dartboard, knives and darts and one cleaver pinning it there.

“Hello!” Shigaraki singsongs as he tilts into view.

“Hang on,” A gruff voice says from behind the camera.

“Eh? Is it not on? Hurry up, you idiot!” Shigaraki snaps.

“I need to adjust the focus.” The voice says. “And the white balance. Everything is too dark.”

“Nobody cares, Dabi.” Shigaraki rolls his eyes.

“Well, fine then, you can have blurry footage if you want.” The voice retorts.

“Just fucking film it, shithead!” Shigaraki snarls.

“Whatever.” Apparently-Dabi huffs. “Do your thing then.”

“Fine.” Shigaraki straightens. “Hello,” he begins again. “Fancy meeting you here.”

A familiar high-pitched giggle comes from offscreen.

Shigaraki spins around. “I said be quiet! We’re filming!”

“Hello,” Knife Girl repeats offscreen in a mocking voice. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Shut the fuck up.” Shigaraki snarls. “You wanna take the girl’s place?”

That seems to shut everyone up.

Shigaraki scratches at his neck. “You— I’m surrounded by fucking idiots. Can’t do anything right, bunch of morons—”

“How long is this going to go on?” Shouto muses, leaning over his shoulder, the warmth of his entire body pressed up against his side.

Izuku jumps, having forgotten he’s not alone.

Shigaraki spends a minute hyperventilating and raging in a constant mutter. Eventually he calms himself down again and addresses the camera. “Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted—” He grins, wiggling his fingers. “I have a mission for you. You obviously betrayed us the first time, so we kept your little sister. Then you failed again last night— clearly you’re completely fucking useless. This time our deal’s going to be a little different. Kill All Might and destroy UA or we kill the girl. It’s very simple. Even a simpleton like you should be able to figure it out.”

Shinsou shakes where he’s sitting.

Izuku spares a glance at his clenched fists. The armrests of his chair creak under his white-knuckled grip.

“And, just so we’re clear,” Shigaraki continues. “That this isn’t a bluff.”

The masked man with the cursed marble quirk comes into view behind Shigaraki. He’s dragging a little girl by the arms.

She can’t be older than five. She’s got knee-length lilac hair and is dressed in an adult-sized hoodie that hangs all the way down to her ankles.

She’s crying hopelessly and refusing to move, forcing the masked man to drag her across the floor on her rump.

Izuku nearly crushes Shouto’s hand in his grip.

“What should I take off?” Shigaraki muses to the camera. “A nose? A foot?”

Izuku snarls. The plastic phone case makes an alarming cracking sound in his hand.

“You said you wouldn’t actually hurt her.” Dabi says from behind the camera.

“Shut up.” Shigaraki snaps. “I can do what I want.”

“There’s no reason to—”

“I said SHUT UP.” Shigaraki screeches.

Dabi stays silent this time.

Shigaraki leans over the little girl. “Holding a hostage is really annoying, you know? Escort quests— they’re the worst. Absolute garbage. You have to feed them and clean up their shit— ugh. It’s really unfortunate that the failure of the Vanguard Action Squad left us with so few options.” Shigaraki hooks his pinky around a strand of lilac hair, lifting it from the rest. “Hey, Twice, you were saying the other day how hard it is to keep it clean, right?”

“No!” Fetish Gear declares enthusiastically from offscreen. “It’s super ugly! I use olive oil to keep it shiny!”

“Hm,” Shigaraki hums disinterestedly.

The little girl screams when a huge clump of her hair evaporates into the air, leaving her scalp red and bleeding.

Izuku hisses.

The rest of the video is silent except for the screaming as Shigaraki burns the hair follicles right out of the child’s pores.

“Ugh,” Shigaraki says when the girl is entirely bald. “That took forever.” He waves dismissively at the camera. “Well, send it. Hurry up, now.” And the video cuts out.

Izuku’s hand with the phone is shaking. The plastic bends where he’s gripping it. Fucking Shigaraki.

“I’m sorry.” Tsuyu pats Shinsou’s shaking shoulder. “I have little siblings, too.”

“Her name is Hibari.” Shinsou blurts out in a choked voice. “She is— she’s—”

“When?” Izuku snarls at him.

Shinsou swallows harshly.

“When did this happen?” Izuku presses.

Shinsou shakes his head. “I got the video this morning. After— after you stopped me from bombing the dorm. I— last night, I guess.”

Izuku hisses and presses the back of his hand against his forehead. He’s already got a headache. He doesn’t think he can go that far without passing out.

“Izuku,” Shouto murmurs and tugs where they’re still joined by their hands. “Breathe.”

Izuku growls wordlessly.

Sighing, Shouto pulls him over to his bed and makes him sit down with him. He pulls Izuku’s laptop off his bedside table and offers, “Let’s focus on finding her. Maybe we can get something from the video.”

“M-maybe we can.” Izuku agrees hopefully. He squeezes Shouto’s hand and lets him help him transfer the file to his laptop so they can rewatch it on a bigger screen.

“I don’t think that’s wise!” Iida scolds. “We clearly need to bring this to the attention of the teachers!”

“They’ve had three months.” Izuku snaps. “I’m fixing this now.”

Shinsou looks at him askance. “He’s right. They’ve been no help.”

Iida flounders. “If the teachers haven’t been able to help, there’s no way…”

Yaoyorozu tightens her hold around herself, her head bowed to hide the gathering of tears in her eyes. “Midoriya is right. We should help. M-maybe we can’t do much but if we can do something it’ll be worth it.”

Uraraka climbs onto the bed on Izuku’s other side and watches as he starts the video again with a determined glint in her eye.

She grabs onto Izuku’s wrist when the screaming starts again. Whether she’s squeezing for his comfort or his own, Izuku doesn’t know.

He grasps back tightly when Shouto squeezes his hand.

When the video ends he starts it again. And then a third time.

“Can you turn the volume off, please.” Shinsou begs them. “I— I don’t want to hear that anymore.”

Izuku snaps the laptop closed with a growl. “This isn’t helping.”

“All I’m getting is that there are no windows.” Shouto muses. “They must be underground.”

“They probably don’t even have a license to sell that alcohol.” Izuku sighs. “This is a dead end. They only would have sent it if it didn’t give anything away.”

“I don't get why you're trying.” Shinsou sighs. “If the pros can't do it then you guys have no hope.”

Izuku leaps up off the bed so suddenly he nearly upends both Shouto and Uraraka.

“Deku has an idea!” Uraraka cheers.

Well. Izuku tugs at his lower lip with one hand and holds his elbow with the other. “If we do something the pros would never do…” he mutters. “That might be our best chance.” The pros and the police haven't found anything in so long because they're being so cautious. But there's nothing Izuku is better at than throwing caution to the wind.

His friends wait expectantly for him to stop muttering to himself.

“What is he doing?” Yaoyorozu whispers.

“Shhhh.” Iida and Uraraka hush her in unison.

Izuku shakes his head and snaps his fingers. “I've got something. But it's dangerous.”

“Is it illegal?” Iida asks.

“Uh.” Izuku avoids his gaze sheepishly. “Only if we get caught?”

Iida heaves a put upon sigh.

“And really the only one I need is Shinsou.” Izuku tries. “So you guys can stay here and—”

“NO.” Uraraka shoots him down loudly.

“That is unacceptable!” Iida declares. “At the very least I will come along to supervise!”

“I'm coming with you.” Shouto says and recaptures his hand to squeeze it threateningly.

“I want to help.” Yaoyorozu says. “Can I come, too?”

“Being friends with Midoriya is always interesting.” Tsuyu comments.

Izuku sighs in defeat. “Guys…”

“Do I get a say in this?” Shinsou pipes up. “'Cuz I don't need a bunch of idiots like you to mess up my life. I can do it myself, thanks.”

“We're going to save Hibari whether you like it or not!” Uraraka declares with confidence. “Deal with it!”

Shinsou sighs and slumps against the duct tape. “Well, plus ultra, I guess.”

Chapter Text

The first obstacle Izuku has is convincing everyone Bakugou is an obstacle.

“He's not going to care that there's an ongoing hostage situation.” Izuku reasons. “The second he has a chance to fight, he’ll take it.”

“That does not justify forcing him to our will!” Iida retorts, cutting sharp edges in the air with his hands.

“Um, maybe we should give Bakugou a chance.” Uraraka reasons. “He must be able to see the logic—”

“Bakugou?” Shouto scoffs. “Logic?”

“To be clear,” Shinsou pipes up. “I'm onboard with this mostly because I don't like that guy. Let's do it.”

“Oh, I didn't know you knew Bakugou…” Yaoyorozu hedges. She's been watching the argument go back and forth for several minutes, hesitant to voice her opinion.

“I don't.” Shinsou smirks. “I just know a bully when I see them.”

“Isn't there someone else we can use in Bakugou’s place?” Tsuyu reasons.

“The only other person I can think of that they'd want is All Might.” Izuku scowls thunderously just at the thought. “And we can't use All Might, obviously.”

“I still don't understand your reasoning for why they’d want Bakugou, though.” Iida complains.

Izuku grits his teeth.

“Saying it's classified does not clarify anything!” Iida declares. “You're not even supposed to know classified information!”

“I was thinking of using Midoriya, actually.” Tsuyu says. “If they want All Might, Midoriya should be just as good, kero.”

“That's a terrible idea.” Shouto snaps.

Izuku is doubtful. “I don't think I'm that important.”

“They did have your picture up in the video. Remember?” Uraraka says.

Izuku reconsiders, humming thoughtfully.

“No.” Shouto says stubbornly and grabs Izuku's arm with both hands. “We're not doing that.”

“You were all for using Kacchan, though.” Izuku notes.

“That's different.” Shouto says. “I don't like him.”

Izuku blushes and fiddles with the hem of his shirt. “Th-that’s pretty cold, Shouto.”

Shouto shrugs carelessly.

“Um,” Yaoyorozu speaks up in a voice reedy with nerves. “Your, um, victims,” she addresses Shinsou. “Don't remember anything after you release them, right?”

Shinsou gives Izuku a sardonic look. “Most of them.”

“So,” Yaoyorozu reasons. “If we do this right, Bakugou won't even know anything. It's on us, of course, to keep him safe, but with Midoriya's plan I think we have a good chance.”

“We won't even have to take him out of UA!” Izuku pipes up. He mutters further under his breath. “Probably…”

Iida sighs. “We should at least notify the pros…”

“Deku has a point!” Uraraka argues. “They'd stop us and Hibari doesn't have enough time to wait for them to act!”

“S-so you agree then?” Yaoyorozu asks.

Uraraka frowns. She gives Izuku a stern look. “I think Deku has a good plan. I agree on the condition that we give Bakugou a chance to do the right thing first.”

Iida grimaces. “I will remind you I’m only coming to stop you from doing anything reckless.”

“What are you gonna do? Nag the whole way?” Shinsou mutters.

“I have cute little siblings of my own.” Tsuyu says. “I want to help even though it's horribly dangerous, kero. That’s just the way I am.”

Izuku looks at Shouto.

“I’m not letting you do this alone.” Shouto says as he squeezes Izuku’s arm pointedly. “We’ll save that girl together.”

Izuku grins grimly. “Let's do this, then.”


They send Uraraka because Izuku is absolutely certain Bakugou would try to explode his face off if it were him.

“WHAT THE FUCK.” They hear Bakugou yell outside the door. “FUCK OFF, I’M NOT GOING IN SHITTY DE—”

Sighing, Izuku snaps the door open, grabs Bakugou, and flings him inside before he can finish his rant.

“WHAT THE FUCK.” Bakugou screams even louder when he sees how crowded the room is.

Izuku closes the door behind Uraraka.

“Bakugou, it's important, I told you.” Uraraka gestures at her friends.

“Fuck this shit!” Bakugou’s palms crackle. “I'm out!”

Izuku stops him with a hand on his collarbone when he tries to march past. “Kacchan…” He winces, but somehow manages not to flinch. It really is strange how much their dynamic has changed, but Izuku’s first reaction is still to fear him.

“FUCK YOU, DEKU!” Bakugou explodes. “I DON’T CARE WHAT KINDA PUSSY FACED GATHERING OF THE NERDS THIS IS. I’M UNINVITING MYSELF!”

Shouto steps up close until he’s pressed into Izuku’s side, ice crackling at his fingertips. “You could at least listen.”

“Guys, c’mon, don't fight.” Izuku whines.

Uraraka pushes Izuku out of the way and shoves Shinsou’s phone into Bakugou's face. “We need your help to save her!”

“Who the fuck…” Bakugou trails off as the video plays.

His mouth twists in distaste.

Izuku shifts nervously.

Bakugou looks away when the screaming starts, grinding his teeth. “So, we’re gonna mess those shits up right?” He grins nastily. “You called me ‘cuz I’m the strongest, huh?”

“Actually, you’re bait.” Izuku corrects.

Bakugou snarls. “I’m FUCKING WHAT.”

“You cannot fight them!” Iida interjects before Bakugou can start throttling Izuku. “We do not have licenses and that would be highly illegal!”

“I mean, if we get caught, it’s illegal.” Izuku mutters.

“THEN WHY THE FUCK AM I HERE?”

“We’ll never find the League on our own. We need them to give us their location.” Izuku says. “So the only way to get to them is to make them bring themselves to us.”

Bakugou points at him. “Deku, this is your shitty plan, isn't it?”

Izuku nods.

“All we need you to do is pretend to be caught by Shinsou!” Uraraka says. “It's his little sister.”

“Who?” Bakugou asks.

“The only person in the room who’s not in our class.” Shouto says snidely.

Bakugou turns where Uraraka gestures.

Shinsou waves awkwardly with just his fingers.

“That's not that purple little shit that sits behind Deku, is it?”

“Uh…” Izuku shifts. “No?”

“Why the fuck is he duct taped to a chair.”

“I was a bad boy.” Shinsou snarks.

Izuku shrugs sheepishly.

Bakugou roughly shoves his hands into his pockets. “How are you gonna get them to believe a scrawny shit like that caught me?”

“He's got pretty much the best capture quirk I’ve ever seen.” Izuku says.

Bakugou glares at him but doesn't say anything.

“He can mind control anyone who talks to him. It’d take him no effort at all to capture you, Kacchan.” Izuku continues.

“Tch.” Bakugou scuffs at the floor. “Fine. Whatever. Let's do this.”

“Oh— j-just like that?” Izuku is surprised. “Um, we’re going to fight them as little as possible. We grab the girl and run— that's all there is to it, Kacchan.” He's nervous Bakugou is going to insist he fight the villains. Izuku isn't an idiot, a fight is going to happen, but Bakugou is too much of a loose cannon to be depended upon in such a delicate situation.

“Fine! If fucking Deku planned it, it’ll work, right? C’mon!” Bakugou growls. “Quit just standing around like useless fucking shitstains!”

“If you're good for it, we don't have to put you under.” Uraraka says. “You can just pretend—”

Bakugou groans. He turns around and grabs Shinsou by the front of the shirt. “C’mon! Do your fucking shitty trick!”

“Well, alright then.” Shinsou agrees blandly.

“Hurry the fuck up, you f—”

Bakugou cuts off mid-curse. It's a miracle.

Izuku blinks as Bakugou freezes in place, his face going slack. He really should have expected the enthusiasm. It’s typical of Bakugou to be either 100% or nothing.

“Now,” Shinsou smirks. “Release me, please.”

Wordlessly, Bakugou releases the front of his shirt and then moves to pull the tape off of him.

“We’re really doing this, huh?” Yaoyorozu says nervously.

“Don't back out on me now.” Shinsou says as he struggles out of the chair. “You got my hopes up and everything.”

“We’re doing it.” Izuku confirms.

Shouto nods determinedly at his side.

Iida is frowning thunderously. “Midoriya, if I could speak with you for a moment.”

Izuku blinks. He was just psyching himself up to get hyped, but Iida looks like a bucket of cold water ready to spill. “S-sure?”

He follows Iida into his own tiny bathroom at his beckoning. Shouto, glued to his side as he is, follows him and ends up squishing Izuku against the sink once the door is closed.

“Uh,” Izuku preses a hand to Iida’s breastbone before he manages to poke his eye out with those pectorals. “Th-this room is barely fit for one person, much less three…”

Iida coughs uncomfortably as Shouto blinks placidly and completely refuses to acknowledge he’s the unnecessary complicated element in this equation.

“I suppose this is fine… Anyway, Midoriya,” Iida begins. It’s especially awkward since he needs to look almost straight down to lecture him when they’re this close. “I want you to know that I’m severely disappointed in you.”

Izuku immediately feels a burst of annoyance.

Iida waves one hand and bonks an elbow on the mirror, but continues on blithely. “All three of us were there during the Hero Killer Stain incident. I would expect you of all people to understand the importance of the law. But, Midoriya, this plan you’ve come up with— it’s civil disobedience at best. Worst case, it’s criminal action!” Iida accidentally wacks his knuckles against the porcelain sink and shakes his hand out. “For us of all people, it’s important that we make the right sort of example! Many of our classmates look up to you, Midoriya, and beyond that the public at large will be looking at us to represent the future generation of heroes!”

Izuku grits his teeth.

“That’s why I must ask you to reconsider, Midoriya.” Iida says passionately. “And let the pros handle this.”

“You learned all the wrong lessons from the Stain incident.” Izuku snaps.

Iida visibly reels at this, unused to Izuku’s ire being directed at him.

Izuku sees Shouto’s head turning towards him in his peripheral vision. He’s frowning.

Izuku grinds his teeth for a moment, trying to reign in his bubbling anger. It doesn’t work very well, unfortunately. He’s already had a very long day.

“What you did— going after Stain,” Izuku tries to explain. “It wasn’t wrong because of the law, or, or, what the stupid police said about maintaining appearances or whatever. It was wrong because you set out to hurt someone for hurting you— it was merely revenge. When I got there just in time and I heard you telling me to run away— do you even know why that made me mad?”

“I should have never—” Iida begins.

“A man was bleeding out five feet away from you.” Izuku snaps, volume rising. “And you lay on the ground, at the mercy of a serial killer, and tried to tell me to fuck off for the sake of your honor.”

Shouto sneaks his fingers into Izuku’s palm. Izuku squeezes them reflexively.

“Fuck you!” Izuku says as that old terror runs through him again. So much could have been lost that night in a stinking alleyway. “You think I care about the law or honor or your public persona? I will do what I have to to do what is right. If the law happens to line up with that, it’s merely coincidence. Do you get it? A hero is not an enforcer. They are a helper. And I’m gonna help Shinsou and his little sister and if I have to bend a few rules to do it, so be it.”

Izuku is breathing a little harder than the situation warrants. He pauses to squeeze Shouto’s hand a little too hard. He will help Shinsou… because he can’t stand to live through the alternative again.

“Listen,” Izuku swallows. “I understand if you don’t want a part in this. I’m not even asking you to help. I’d much prefer to do this on my own.”

“No.” Shouto says quietly but firmly.

Izuku sighs.

Iida’s mouth is pinched tight. “You know I can’t allow that on my conscience.” He adjusts his glasses. “I respect your reasoning, but I cannot wholly agree with it.”

Izuku rubs at his face and shrugs tiredly.

“I’m coming with you.” Iida decides. He frowns down at Izuku. “And, Midoriya, though I think we have some very different ideas about what that entails, I do truly want to help you.”

Izuku looks back up at him. Iida is always as rigid as he is earnest. “... I know.”


They gather after changing into their hero gear in a disused classroom for their ploy.

“Iida and Yaoyorozu, your job is to clear an exit. I don't care of you have to bomb a couple walls out, expediency is your number one priority.” Izuku says.

Yaoyorozu salutes him ironically and Iida salutes him with complete sincerity. “Got it!”

Izuku takes a shaky breath. “Tsuyu, you’re support. Protect our backs and watch out for the warper. You’re the most surprising player on the field, so lean on that. Strike with precision.”

Tsuyu waves. “I'm on it, kero.”

“We, of course, will not be engaging directly in battle!” Iida reiterates.

“... Right.” Izuku agrees without believing it at all.

He turns at Shouto and Uraraka. “... As soon as the portal opens we’re going through at top speed, which means I can only bring who I can carry. Which is unfortunately only me…”

“Izuku…” Shouto sighs at him.

Uraraka punches his shoulder. “Deku! We talked about this!”

Izuku sighs. It was worth a try. “Fine. Uraraka, I need you to release everyone once we're through. Form up, all of you behind me—”

“Todoroki can stand behind you, 'cuz he's a long range fighter!” Uraraka argues. “But I need to touch people!”

Izuku grumbles. “Fine. Slightly behind me.”

Shouto snorts and pokes him in the ribs with a cold finger.

Izuku shivers. “... Next to me.”

“Thank you!” Uraraka throws up her hands.

Sighing, Izuku continues. He fiddles with the black tracking device Yaoyorozu produced for him. “Shigaraki is… unreasonable. But he thinks he’s smart. As long as he thinks he has the upper hand, he’ll play the game.”

“You’re making a gamble on a character analysis.” Yaoyorozu warns quietly.

Izuku grits his teeth and resolutely doesn’t think of that room full of chairs and dust and blood. “He likes games. A lot.”

Izuku turns to his boyfriend. “Shouto, you play the field, not the players. Block off exits with ice, create obstacles, and slow any of the League from assisting each other. It’d be great if you can cut off Kurogiri’s line of vision of Tsuyu if you get the chance. The one exception is—”

“The guy with the scars.” Shouto nods. “I must ‘blast him like I blasted Sero.’” Shouto quotes back to him.

Izuku nods grimly. “You’re the only one who can match a fireuser like him. I’m counting on you.”

Shouto smirks. “Oh, what a coincidence, I’ve trained thousands of hours fighting fire.”

“We’re gonna save Hibari!” Uraraka cheers.

“Hey, what about me?” Shinsou pipes up.

“You alert the pros if we don’t give you the all clear in ten minutes.” Izuku looks around at everybody. “We all got our trackers, right? Make sure they’re on.”

Shinsou huffs. “I can order this idiot to do that.” He gestures at Bakugou, who is standing eerily still next to him and staring into the middle distance. “I’m coming.”

Izuku frowns.

Shinsou grits his teeth. “I can follow orders, too, if that’s what you’re worried about. The only thing I care about is my little sister, so if you think I’m gonna let you idiots mess up and leave me hanging—”

Izuku sighs. He can’t exactly expect anything less from the kind of guy who would literally kill thousands of people for his family to show some restraint. “Fine. Stay with the group and if you get any of my friends killed I will personally crush your skull between my palms.”

“Deku!” Uraraka exclaims, scandalized.

“It’d be easy.” Izuku holds his hands a couple inches apart and lets the sparks of One For All arc between them. “Like squishing an overripe melon.”

“Okay, jeez.” Shinsou says.

“And then I’ll kill myself.” Izuku finishes tiredly.

Shouto scowls at him and grabs his hand to lace their fingers together. “It’s going to be fine. Stop talking like that.”

Izuku blinks rapidly at the ground. “Shit. We’re about to jump right into the lair of the League of Villains. This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever had—”

“We can always get a teacher.” Iida reasons hopefully. “It’s not too late.”

“No,” Izuku grits out. “It is.” If this plan fails… he can always rewind and change his decision later. But getting the teachers involved has already proven to be disastrous. “This is that little girl’s best chance.”

“Her name is Hibari.” Shinsou murmurs.

“Has anyone changed their minds?” Iida says hopefully. “If so—”

“No.” Izuku scrubs at his face. He shakes his head and straightens his shoulders. “We’re doing this.” He nods at Shinsou. “Make the call.” He waves his other friends out of the classroom. “You guys stay hidden until it’s time. I’m pretty sure the warp guy has some sort of sensing ability in proximity to his portals.”

The 1-A students array themselves outside the door while Shinsou fiddles nervously with his phone.

“You’re sure about this, Midoriya?” Shinsou hesitates. “They really value this asshole that much?” Shinsou looks skeptically at Bakugou.

“Make the call, Shinsou.” Izuku says. “I’m sure.”

“What makes you think you can trick them?” Shinsou tries. “What if they’ve already spotted us on the cameras and this is a trap? What if they just kill all of us instead?”

Izuku huffs. He’s not about to tell Shinsou that with his quirk that’s actually a huge advantage. “I don’t think they have anyone with that kind of clearance in UA.” Izuku lays out his reasons, counting on his fingers. “First, they didn’t know our quirks during the USJ attack. That means they don’t have any spies close to the administration and definitely no one with security clearance. It’d be easy for them to get that kind of information if it was one of the teaching staff.” He puts up another finger. “Second, they needed you, a 1-C student, to get information on the summer camp. UA is tightening security and it’s limiting the information gathering abilities of whatever spies they do have. And third,” Izuku holds up a final finger with a vicious grin. “Thanks to the failure of the summer camp attack, I have a good idea of what their numbers are like. That video told me a lot, too. They don’t have the resources to pour into UA that they used to.”

Provided the League hasn’t done too much recruiting in the interimining weeks, the numbers they have now should be equal to what was left after the pros cleaned up the ‘Villain Vanguard Action Squad.’ Certainly, they’d have trouble replacing big hitters like Muscular and Moonfish. Hopefully they took a similar hit to their morale. Shigaraki’s attempt at All Might via Shinsou is probably as much a desperate grab for stability after suffering such a big failure as it is a punishment for Shinsou’s failure.

Shinsou sighs. “If this fails, I’m blaming you.”

Izuku shrugs. He’ll blame himself, too, thanks.

Shinsou tugs agitatedly at his hair. “Okay, fine. I’m doing it.” Fingers only shaking a little, he carefully dials the number the video was sent to him over.

Izuku and his friends wait with baited breath as Shinsou silently waits for the phone to stop ringing.

“Hi,” Shinsou greets shakily. “Um— wait, I know that, just— I wanted to offer a trade.”

There’s silence as Shinsou listens. “R-right, I know. It’s just, All Might is really hard to catch, y’know? I’m not even in the hero classes, so— No! No, no, it’s fine, just— I thought you might like this better—”

Izuku huffs and makes eyes at Shouto who is patiently waiting behind him, arms on his shoulders and already artificially light thanks to Uraraka’s quirk.

Shouto smirks at him and pats his head. Patience.

“I want to trade Bakugou Katsuki for my sister.” Shinsou says at last. He shifts nervously, glaring at the door where Izuku is hiding. “Yeah, I got him. He’d be useful, right? You wanted him, right?” Shinsou cuts off to listen. “Yeah.” He says. “He’s under my control.”

Shinsou angles the phone away from his mouth so he can release a huge sigh of relief. He gives them a thumbs up.

Izuku grins nastily. Hook, line, and sinker.

“I’m on the second floor. Classroom 204.” Shinsou says into the phone. “I can’t get him past the security at the entrance, so you’ll have to— Yeah. That’s the one.”

Izuku crouches, letting One For All light up his limbs as a dark, swirling shadow forms in the middle of the room. Shouto hops up, wrapping his legs around Izuku’s waist.

Izuku holds up a fist, signalling Iida behind him to wait. He’s got Uraraka, Yaoyorozu, and Tsuyu on his shoulders. The girls except Uraraka are floating, under the full power of Uraraka’s quirk, anchored to Iida by the adhesive handles Yaoyorozu produced on the fly for gripping Iida’s smooth armor.

The portal finally opens all the way. Izuku can see the shadow of that bar from the video through it.

He drops his fist and leaps.

He stops briefly to scoop up Shinsou into his arms, but is only a half second behind Iida in diving through the portal.

Izuku digs his heels in, splintering the wood floor with the force of his momentum. Shouto drops off his back and Izuku lets Shinsou roll onto the floor as he comes to a sudden stop, standing up straight in front of his gathered friends.

“What the—” Shigaraki is sitting at the bar, his cellphone still held carefully in one hand with one pinky extended.

Kurogiri is wiping the bar. He freezes when they appear and his wispy body flutters like a scarf in the wind.

As planned, Shouto builds a little ice fortress around Iida, Yaoyorozu, and Shinsou, shielding them from prying eyes. Uraraka steps up beside Izuku, fists up and eyes hard.

“Shigaraki,” Izuku greets with a growl.

Shigaraki’s eyes narrow. “You.”

“Me.” Izuku agrees. He wants to snap that man in half so, so bad. “Fancy,” Izuku drawls venomously. “Meeting you here.”

Shigaraki’s mouth twists into a snarl. He closes his fist around the cellphone and lets it fall as ash upon the counter. “It was you all along.”

“Four distinct heat signatures in the building.” Yaoyorozu murmurs quietly into their radio. “Um, I mean, other than us. And them. Outside this room, I mean.”

Izuku holds up his tracking device and waggles it mockingly. “You’re going to give me the girl.”

Shigaraki glares at him for a moment before abruptly smoothing his expression and leaning back on his stool. “Really? Why would I do that?”

Izuku bites his tongue on a snappish retort. From what he’s seen of Shigaraki, telling him he doesn’t have a choice is a great way to get him to start acting irrationally. Izuku shrugs nonchalantly, but can’t keep the nasty smirk off his face. “Just a hunch I have…”

“Nine o’clock and twelve o’clock are both outside walls. We should be able to escape through them without bringing down the building.” Yaoyorozu whispers. “But leave the wall behind the bar. It’s load-bearing.”

Shigaraki narrows his eyes as Izuku keeps smirking. “What do you think you know, huh? Making a face like that, think you’re—” he abruptly glares over Izuku’s shoulder. “What are those brats doing? What are you hiding in there?”

Izuku hums faux-inquisitively and glances over his shoulder at the mini ice castle cooling the room. He briefly catches Shouto’s eyes, who looks back at him grimly. “Oh, that?” Izuku turns back to grin cheekily. “Did I forget to mention? We brought a bomb.”

Izuku notes that Kurogiri is capable of facial expressions despite being made mostly of smoke, as his golden eyes widen.

Shigaraki is very still, fingers twitching over his lap.

Izuku reaches into his pocket and pulls out what obviously looks like a detonator, big red button included. Technically, they did bring explosives courtesy of Yaoyorozu’s quirk. The League doesn’t need to know their arsenal mostly consists of small shaped charges for breaking and entering, though.

Shigaraki abruptly guffaws as Izuku mockingly waggles the device. “Y-you’re actually crazy, aren’t you?” He giggles and scratches at his neck. “That’s actually hilarious.”

Izuku raises his eyebrows. It isn’t terribly hard to keep his expression dangerously close to murderous. He genuinely is dangerously close to murderous in his current company. “You know,” he begins, smiling slightly. “Midnight’s quirk isn’t really a gas. It’s an aerosol. She releases tiny liquid droplets of a special tranquilizing agent. It’s really quite fascinating. Outside of Midnight, the compound she produces is really only found in nature among certain fungi. It’s incredibly fast acting and almost impossible to overdose on… Even a gas mask won’t save you. Not at this concentration.”

Shigaraki has stopped scratching. He glares, teeth visibly grinding.

“And like I said,” Izuku continues. “It’s an aerosol, not a gas. Makes it very easy to quickly oversaturate an enclosed space with, you know?” Izuku rubs his thumb over the detonator warningly. “Easier still from the fact that you forgot to put in windows.”

Shigaraki twitches. “What are you thinking Midoriya?” He hisses in warning. “You’d be gassing yourself, too.”

Izuku smirks. “And the automatic alert I put out brings the entirety of UA down on your sleeping head. The pro heroes could walk right in.”

Shigaraki growls and scratches at his neck for a minute.

Izuku sighs. He looks at his detonator consideringly. “You know, now that I think about it, a nap is sounding pretty good right now.”

“What do you want.” Shigaraki hisses.

Izuku lifts his chin. “I’m getting bored. Show me that the girl is alright or I press the button anyway.”

Shigaraki makes a wordless snarling noise.

Kurogiri shifts uneasily. “Shigaraki—”

“Shut up.” Shigaraki snaps. He scratches rapidly at his jaw. “He’s not playing fair. He’s not playing fair.”

Kurogiri looks nervously at Izuku and back.

Shigaraki stills just as quickly as his rage came on. “Kurogiri.” He commands flatly. “Bring them here.”

Izuku frowns. “If you bring anyone other than—”

“Bring the girl,” Shigaraki elaborates in the same tone of a back-talking teenager. “And her caretaker.” Shigaraki grins. “You didn’t think she was alone, did you?”

Izuku scowls.

“... Of course,” Kurogiri agrees after a cautious pause.

Izuku watches warily as his body swirls, opening a portal next to Shigaraki.

Izuku grits his teeth at the foot that steps out. He knows what’s coming.

Ugly Scarface Pain-In-Izuku’s-Ass ducks into the room. He drags a familiar little girl behind him.

Izuku takes a second to gauge her health. She’s in the same oversized hoodie from the video with the hood up and her eyes are red and puffy. She’s walking on her own two feet though, despite Ugly practically lifting her off the ground with that grip on her upper arm.

She locks eyes with Izuku. They’re lilac, the same soft purple her hair had been. For a moment, Izuku sees only anguish so deep he suspects there isn’t a thought in her head, but then— recognition?

“So? There she is.” Shigaraki waves negligently. “She’s fucking fine.”

Ugly blinks at Izuku and the array of students behind him. “... What.”

“Now,” Shigaraki grins. “Let’s talk about that crazy plan you had with the water vapor again.”

Izuku licks his lips and tries not to let his nerves show on his face. It takes most of his will power not to glance at the wall vent behind Kurogiri’s head. He just needs to stall until Tsuyu is in a good place to grab the girl.

It’s all made more nerve wracking by the knowledge that they don’t even have any knock-out gas. Yaoyorozu’s quirk could theoretically provide a contact poison quite easily… if her quirk didn’t require immediately coming into contact with said poison. He had thought it an awfully ironic weakness for such a versatile quirk when he had first thought of it; now he despairs.

Izuku scratches his jaw with the edge of the detonator. “You want details? Well, first you’re going to feel very sleepy. If you hold your breath long enough to let your skin absorb the sedative, your eyes will burn. Feels a bit like acute hay fever. You might get a nosebleed. That’s from the other thing that’s gonna happen, though.”

“What other thing?” Shigaraki asks sharply.

Izuku grins cheekily. “My fist hitting your face.”

Uraraka snorts quietly next to him.

Ugly sighs, rolling his head on his shoulders. “Is anyone gonna tell me what’s going on?”

Shigaraki glares at Izuku for another second. “You know what I think? I think you’re cornered and you know it. You’re a fool if you think I’m going to let you walk out of here.” Shigaraki’s face brightens with gleeful malice. “Just imagine All Might’s face when I mail you to his doorstep in six different boxes. It’ll be great.”

“That’s not going to happen.” Izuku warns with a barely restrained snarl. He wants to rip Shigaraki’s arms off. Being calm and collected is so damn hard.

“Really?” Shigaraki wonders with gleeful skepticism. “Dabi,” he barks, “Burn his legs off, but don’t kill him.”

Ugly rolls his eyes, but raises his free arm. “I wish people would warn me when things like this are happening.” He grouches.

Ah. Izuku realizes with distant panic. That’s what his name is.

Dabi’s arm lights up at the same time Izuku can feel all the warmth being sucked out of the air from behind him, Shouto’s quirk forming ice crystals in Izuku’s eyelashes from proximity.

Izuku looks at the wall vent hopefully. Tsuyu has worked all the screws free and is silently pulling the vent cover into the wall with her.

He looks again at the little girl in the split second before everything goes to shit. If he dodges into the fire, maybe he can rewind to—

The little girl looks back at him with a fierce look. She nods like she was waiting for him to look at her.

And then she punches Dabi in the dick.

“Gah!” Dabi hunches over clutching his crotch, flames extinguishing almost the moment they ignite. “Fucking little—”

Izuku’s mouth drops open as the little girl wrestles her arm free with the desperate ferocity of a captured animal and then dashes right for Izuku.

Izuku bends, arms outstretched on instinct, and scoops her up when she crashes into his chest. Her arms wrap tightly around his neck and she stares at Izuku’s face with naked hope as he lifts her up.

“You’re the one from the picture.” She whispers desperately. “You’re his arch-nemesis.”

“Uh,” Izuku hems.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Shigaraki screeches.

“Fucking— dammit.” Dabi wheezes.

“That means you’re a hero.” The girl breathes rapidly. “You’re here to save me.”

Izuku flinches at her absolute certainty. Inwardly, he shrinks at the realization that without his quirk allowing him to fuck up as many timelines as he wants, he never would have saved this tiny five year old, no matter how optimistic she is.

“Hibari!” Shinsou whisper yells from the ice fortress behind him, held back by a grim-faced Iida. “Come here!”

Izuku licks his lips. Eying Dabi as he straights back up with a mutinous expression. He takes a deep breath and grins. “Yeah,” he agrees. “I’m here to save you.”

The girl sags in his arms, breathing as if she hasn’t taken a full breath in months and only just got her first taste of relief.

Dabi glares at Izuku and raises his arm again.

“Burn him!” Shigaraki yells. “Burn all of them!”

Izuku tenses as frost curls over the toes of his shoes. Shouto steps up beside him and the air crackles.

“Um,” Yaoyorozu mutters over the radio. “Is— is this a good time to leave?”

“You get my sister hurt and I’ll kill everyone in this room and then myself.” Shinsou snarls from where Iida has dragged him back inside the ice cave.

After a moment of intense staring, Dabi lowers his arm. His crystal blue eyes flicker over the girl. “Put the kid down.” He gruffs.

“I said,” Shigaraki screeches. “Fucking burn them!”

Izuku tightens his grip on the girl. He eyes Dabi incredulously. … He doesn’t want to burn her? “Congratulations.” He snarks. “You’re not a complete asshole.”

Shigaraki snarls. “I have to do fucking everything myself!” He waves at Kurogiri. “You! Get the girl back! I’m going to kill that brat.”

A wall of ice rises up in front of Izuku the second Shigaraki gets out of his seat. Izuku takes a step back as Uraraka picks up a table and throws it like a frisbee with enough force Dabi makes a breathless hacking noise when it hits him in the chest.

“No fighting!” Iida yells. He leans out of the ice castle to wave his arms like a traffic controller. “This is illegal activity!”

“Um,” is all Yaoyorozu says over the mic, sounding harried.

Izuku’s eyes are trained on Shigaraki. The ice barely slows him down. He just swipes at it and it dissolves into a mist that bursts outward as Shigaraki bounds through it—

“Deku!”

Izuku pivots at the panicked shout and barely avoids falling into a portal. Shouto grabs his sleeve in the next second pulling him until he regains his balance.

The portal destabilizes. Izuku looks past the bar and sees Kurogiri’s armored neck disconnect from the rest of his wispy body with a violent wrench of Tsuyu’s tongue. Thank god for Tsuyu.

Shigaraki screeches as Shouto fills half the room with ice, briefly hiding him and Dabi from view.

“Are we ready to go yet?” Uraraka asks. “I think we should be ready to go.”

“Uh,” Yaoyorozu says.

“We will leave as soon as you cease and desist!” Iida dramatically crosses his arms in an X.

Shinsou slides out from behind Iida and makes a beeline for Izuku. “Hibari! Give her to me.”

Izuku spares him a brief glance before going back to staring at the glowing spot in the wall of ice. “This is about to go bad.” He murmurs.

“Give her to me.” Shinsou commands. “H-Hibari, it’s okay now—”

The girl peeks at her brother over Izuku’s shoulder. “B-big brother?”

That glowing spot is definitely growing. Izuku hisses and turns around. “Iida!” He barks. “Grab everyone you can and go. Make sure Tsuyu is with you. Uraraka, help him.”

Uraraka nods and moves towards Iida to start lightening him.

Iida makes a face and adjusts his glasses. “Ah— we need another moment—”

“No,” Izuku summons One For All into his fist. “We’re going now.” He looks nervously over his shoulder.

He catches Shouto’s eye. He’s also been looking grimly at the ice wall as new ice flows continuously from his right foot. He can only contain the combined forces of Shigaraki and a fire user for so long.

Shinsou grabs his shoulder as Izuku turns his attention to the brick wall on their 9 o’clock. “Midoriya,”

Shinsou is not exactly fit. He will not be able to run while carrying a five year old, and running is all that’s on Izuku’s mind. “Stay with Iida—” Izuku stops.

“Give her to me.”

Izuku turns woodenly and unclasps the vice grip Hibari has on his neck. Shinsou comes forward with desperate eyes to take his little sister into his arms.

“Hibari,” he murmurs, pressing his face to hers. “I’m here—”

Izuku gasps as the mind control breaks, toddering on his feet. “Shinsou, can you not—”

“Izuku!” Shouto’s voice tips up to a pitch not normally heard.

Izuku spins just in time to see the ice wall blow outward with a burst of flame coming right for his face. Izuku doesn’t have time to dodge— and he doesn’t really want to since no less than three people are directly behind him.

A new wall of ice comes up almost directly under his feet, tripping him backwards but managing to shield him.

Izuku turns to give Shouto a look of gratitude, but instead he sees Shigaraki dodging through the new hole in their defenses, hand outstretched— while Shouto is still distracted trying to protect Izuku.

With a roar and a flash of lightning, Izuku launches himself across the room when Shigaraki’s palm is just inches from Shouto’s face.

He won’t let it happen again. He won’t.

Shigaraki is not a fighter.

This is made horribly evident when Izuku wraps his lightning wreathed hand around his wrist and snaps his arm backwards at the elbow.

Shigaraki screeches, flinching backwards and completely failing to maintain any sort of footwork. He clumsily slaps at Izuku with his other hand, but Izuku bats it aside.

He kicks Shigaraki’s forward foot out and bears him to the ground. Shigaraki hunches his shoulders and doesn’t even roll into the fall. Izuku supposes he must be entirely untrained.

And slow. He’s so slow.

Izuku swats his other hand aside as he makes another swipe, this time with the crack of bones snapping— but not his own.

“Ow! Fuck— let go!” Shigaraki doesn’t struggle, obviously afraid of moving his broken arms.

With Full Cowl on, breaking someone’s arm is as easy as breaking a twig. Izuku is equal parts horrified and awed that such a small fraction of One For All can equal such devastation when applied to the human body.

Izuku is fantasizing about breaking more of his bones. That’s… probably bad.

“Agh!” Shigaraki continues to whine. “What did you do that for? Fuck!”

Izuku can feel the shift of misplaced bone through his gloves. “I won’t let you hurt them.” He snarls. “Your quirk— you need your hands to activate it, right?”

Shigaraki looks at how his elbows are bent all the wrong way and his wrists flop with wild eyes. “I’m gonna kill you!”

Izuku frowns. His hands are shaking and his heartbeat thunders in his ears. He’s angrier than he’s ever been.

“I’m going to kill All Might.” Shigaraki continues in a wild ramble. “Maybe I’ll let you watch.”

Izuku snarls and twists Shigaraki’s broken arm a little more.

He freezes when Shigaraki screams.

He stares at his shaking hands, still holding Shigaraki down.

He is so, so angry. He’s not even scared of Shigaraki— what is there to fear in such a pathetic man?

But he is still afraid. He’s terrified.

Izuku licks his lips, mouth dry.

He’s afraid of his own limitless anger and what he might do.

“All Might is weak.” Shigaraki hisses. “This false peace will fail along with him.”

Izuku shakes his head. He looks into Shigaraki’s mad eyes and only sees himself reflected back. There is nothing there but rage.

Shuddering, Izuku gives him a swift rabbit punch between the eyes.

Shigaraki’s head bounces on the wood floor and he finally goes still and silent.

Izuku takes a deep shuddering breath, and tries not to remember ash and blood, ash and blood, ash and blood.

“Deku!” Uraraka calls.

Blinking, Izuku releases Shigaraki, allowing him to slide limply to the floor. He sweeps the room with his eyes before turning all the way around.

Dabi is passed out on the floor, half covered in ice and bleeding from the head from what he suspects was an Uraraka Special.

Kurogiri is nowhere to be seen, but Tsuyu has left her hiding place in the vents, so he must be indisposed.

Shinsou is standing in the middle of the carnage, apparently oblivious. He rocks his sister back and forth. His eyes are screwed shut but tears still leak out.

“I am very disappointed in you!” Iida waves sharply. “We have all broken the law today and there will be consequences!”

Yaoyorozu climbs out of the ice castle, her face white at a sheet. “I-I’m sorry. I choked. It’s my fault—”

Izuku’s eyes snag on Shouto.

He’s standing in the middle of the room, unmoved from the moment their battle began. Ice and scorch marks bloom outward from him like the petals of a deadly flower, with ice crystals glittering on his cheek.

Izuku really lucked out with that one. When Shouto meets his eye something immediately settles in Izuku’s gut. Sure, he’d walk through hell for a lot of people, but there’s something special about the sort of person that will follow you through. There’s no one he can rely on quite like Shouto.

Izuku smiles sheepishly and blushes. He should tell him he’s pretty. Is this a bad time?

“Deku! Oi!” Uraraka smacks his shoulder.

“Ah!” Izuku startles. “Um,” he turns to Uraraka. “What is it? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.” She jerks a thumb over her shoulder. “But Iida is about to have an aneurysm. What’s the plan?”

“Uh,” Izuku blinks around the room. “I punch the wall.”

Of course, this is the moment the door behind the bar opens and everything really goes to shit.

Izuku freezes up as a man in a three piece suit steps out. Half of his face hidden behind some sort of breathing apparatus and the other is a mess of scar tissue. His steps are calm and measured, as if there isn’t anything in the world that can hurry him.

“Please,” the man says directly to Izuku, though he has no eyes. “Let me help you with that.”

Izuku stops breathing. He barely registers a Noumu punching through the wall behind him in an explosion of rubble. Four more crawl in the hole behind it.

This man— Izuku can’t even blink— this man is dangerous.

“Go.” Izuku pushes Uraraka behind him without looking away. “Go now.”

“Deku—”

“Use your quirk on the others.” Izuku grits out. “Fling them into the sky if you have to. Get everyone out now.”

“Izuku,” Shouto steps forward and grips his sleeve. “I’m not leaving you.”

The man tilts his head in amusement and crosses his arms behind his back. He’s not unhinged like Shigaraki. He’s not even wildly fanatical like Stain. Izuku can tell from one look that this man is the most dangerous combination of things he’s ever encountered— intelligent, ruthless, patient. He carries two hundred years of a successful criminal empire on his shoulders, after all.

This can’t be anyone but All For One.

“I’ll let them go, you know.” All For One says conversationally. “They mean nothing to me.”

“I’m not leaving.” Shouto insists.

Izuku grimaces. He turns on Shouto and makes a cutting motion towards the recently revealed alleyway. “Go!”

Shouto glares at All For One and Izuku nearly melts into the floor in terror. “I’m not—”

“I SAID GO!” Izuku bellows. “JUST FUCKING GO AND BE SAFE FOR FUCKING ONCE!”

Shouto’s eyes widen and he stiffens, not immediately replying.

Izuku is instantly ashamed of his outburst, but not enough to staunch the overwhelming fear he has of seeing Shouto die again.

Shouto’s eyes harden into something colder than ice as he steps back.

Izuku grits his teeth and ducks his eyes. Shouto deserves better than that… And yet he doesn’t regret making him leave.

Pushing down his feelings, Izuku looks over his shoulder to see the rest of his friends hovering near the new hole in the wall. Shinsou and his sister are already gone.

“Midoriya,” Iida hesitates.

Izuku ducks his head and stays in the middle of the room, fists shaking at his sides.

The Noumus hover. Filling the ruined room with the stink of their breath.

Izuku grits his teeth, waiting until Shouto is done marching away from him, and then he plucks the smoke bomb out of his pocket and flings it after them.

“Go.” Izuku says to their wide eyes. “I’ll be fine.”

The smoke billows free, obscuring half the room and making his friends cough.

It was the original plan, after all.

“Well done,” All For One says when Izuku turns back. “You’re not as much of a fool as I thought.”

Izuku grimaces. He’s much more of a fool than he ever imagined, actually… “All Might is going to defeat you.”

All For One is still standing with his arms crossed behind his back. He tilts his head. “Oh, I’m counting on it.”

Bafflement is a particularly terrifying emotion when you’re feeling it in a situation such as this. “Wha—”

“Noumu,” All For One calls.

Izuku wheezes as a giant hand closes around his rib cage, lifting him right up off the floor.

All For One strolls up to him. He has nothing for a visible face but Izuku can still see the glee in the set of his shoulders and bounce of his step. “Is it true you have a direct line to All Might, or was that a bluff, too?”

Izuku can’t answer, since he barely has enough air to breathe.

All For One tsks when he doesn’t reply and riffles through his pockets with a sense of entitlement that honestly offends Izuku.

“That was almost clever, you know.” All For One comments with false magnanimity. “Tomura just isn’t made for that kind of gambit. He gets tunnel vision once he thinks he has a solution.” All For One relieves Izuku of his phone and his tracking device. “But you already knew that, didn’t you?”

Izuku makes a hissing sound.

All For One sighs. “You know, any other time I’d be annoyed. But Tomura has… not been delivering lately. I’ve been forced to delay my plans. Until you came along… I don’t need to anymore, do I?”

Izuku winces and debates the merits of killing himself now or waiting to see what All For One will do so he knows what’s coming. If only he could figure out how to kill himself with his arms pinned to his sides.

All For One chuckles as he examines Izuku’s face. “All Might would come running if it was you, wouldn’t he?”

Izuku struggles in the Noumu’s huge fist and shakes his head.

“Yes,” All For One muses. “This is all going to work out splendidly.”

All For One presses the activate button on the tracker and a little red light starts flashing above its LED screen.

Izuku wheezes and tries kicking free to no avail. With his arms trapped against his side there’s not much he can do.

It takes less than thirty seconds for his phone to start ringing— Yaoyorozu designed the trackers to be very direct, after all.

“Look at that!” All For One crows. “You even have him in your contacts.” He turns the phone to Izuku. Izuku has a moment to despair at the picture of All Might’s smiling face before All For One accepts the call.

“Young Midoriya!” All Might’s voice is reedy over the line. “I just got the most alarming text message. Are you—”

The Noumu’s fist loosens enough for Izuku to take a gasping breath. “All Might— don’t come! It’s a trap— Ack—” The Noumu’s fist tightens again and Izuku gasps in vain.

All For One takes the phone back, brimming with malice as he says into the receiver, “You have three minutes. It’s longer than I usually give you, but I know you’ve been slowing down recently. You can never say I’m not fair, after all.”

All For One’s glee only heightens as he listens to whatever All Might has to say. “We shall see.” He intones ominously before hanging up.

Izuku groans and struggles against the Noumu’s grip. All Might is going to come and it’s going to be a disaster and it’s all his fault.

All For One pockets his phone and stops to consider Izuku for a moment. “You know, I should really be thanking you. I was beginning to despair of Tomura’s failures.” He waves at Shigaraki’s prone body and it begins to dissolve in black goo.

Izuku watches as Dabi beside him receives the same treatment. And then he watches in horror as several new bursts of black goo appear in the air, even more Noumu forming from them.

“I wasn’t expecting you to be such a boon to my plans.” All For One says with faint amusement.

Izuku glares at him.

All For One chuckles. “Oh, alright,” he waves and the Noumu suddenly drops Izuku.

His knees nearly buckle when he hits the ground, but Izuku manages to stay upright with a wobble. He wheezes. “You— you—”

All For One cocks a hip against the bar and crosses his arms. “What would you like? I know you’ve been quirkless most your life. Would you like another one?”

Izuku straightens up and clenches his fists.

All For One tilts his head consideringly. “I have so many that would suit you. Perhaps a durability or healing quirk to fix that nasty habit you have of breaking your limbs.”

Izuku grits his teeth and his shoulders shake with the pent up fear. On his face he knows is only anger. “I don’t want any of your stolen quirks.”

All For One tilts his head the other way. “Then again, you’re a clever one, aren’t you? Brute force isn’t your first instinct, I can tell. I have still more quirks to suit a quick mind. The sort that wouldn’t be useful to your typical back alley grunt.” All For One voice is a slow drawl like liquid mercury. “But with the right application… you could do great things.”

Izuku shivers.

All For One stares back at him. It’s particularly disconcerting considering he has no eyes. “Ah,” he intones with faint disappointment. “All Might picked you for that woefully stubborn righteous streak, didn’t he?”

Izuku swallows around a dry throat. “I don’t want,” he repeats slowly, wondering if these will be his last words in this timeline, “any of your stolen quirks.”

All For One sighs. “You know, I’ve heard that so many times before, but it’s only rarely that one has said that to me and meant it.” All For One straightens up off the bar. “That’s the dark truth of humanity— no matter how good you think you are, there’s always something that will make you bend. For most, it’s the promise of power or wealth.” All For One stops to tilt his head consideringly at Izuku. “What then will make Midoriya Izuku bend? That is the question.”

Izuku fists his hands so tightly at his sides he can feel his own pulse through his gloves. It shudders and shakes through his veins like a storm against the window. He certainly feels like he might shatter into glass at any moment.

All For One tilts his head the other way. “Then again,” he muses apropos of nothing. “You’re not like All Might at all, are you?”

Izuku flinches so hard he nearly crumples into a pile of leaden limbs. “What do you mean?” All Might chose him because they’re alike. They both have the heart of a hero! Izuku is going to be him someday, if he has any say in it. He’s going to become the Symbol of Peace, smiling to banish the fear—

Even without a face, Izuku gets the sense All For One is grinning from ear to ear. “You’re realistic, for one. If All Might stood before me in this place at your age, he would already be swinging. But no, you think and you understand. I would crush you in an instant, after all. My question is this— do you scheme for an escape? Or do you merely wait and hope for the arrival of your savior?”

Izuku licks at his lips. He has been... despairing, really. He is waiting for the next inevitable disaster. And then… he’s going to fix it. One death at a time.

As All For One patiently stares back at him, Izuku stops… and rewinds his thoughts a bit.

Why… wait at all?

All Might will arrive in another minute if he answers All For One’s call. He will have no backup— having had no time to prepare. There are— one… two… three… — thirteen Noumu and one supervillain waiting for him.

He’ll be diving into a trap essentially blind— and it’s all Izuku’s fault.

All For One chuckles at whatever change he sees in Izuku’s face. “Oh ho, made up your mind, did you?”

Izuku takes a deep breath and releases it, trying to push all the paralyzing panic out in one big whoosh. It… doesn’t quite work. But oh well.

Izuku swallows harshly, throws his shoulders back, and launches himself at All For One at 100%.

All For One wasn’t lying. It takes literally less than a second for Izuku to die.

Izuku was expecting it, but the truly terrifying bit is that he doesn’t see what kills him until after he starts rewinding. As he watches the grotesque, stretched-thin flesh of All For One’s right arm retract from his chest cavity in slow motion, Izuku understands one thing: he can’t let All Might go into this without help.

“Oh ho, made up your mind, did you?” All For One chuckles.

Izuku takes a deep breath with newly reformed lungs. Strangely, dying that once has made it easier to get a handle on his nerves. Grappling with his own mortality is old hat, after all. The worst All For One could do to him is restrain him, not kill him.

And while he waits for All Might to arrive… he needs to figure out the problem of All For One.

“Why do you even bother with Shigaraki?” Izuku abruptly blurts out.

He just finished absolutely trouncing the guy— the difference between Shigaraki and All For One is as vast and monumental as the difference between Shigaraki and himself.

All For One tilts his head inquisitively.

“It’s not like it wasn’t completely obvious you were behind him.” Izuku notes. He crosses his arms and tugs his lower lip with one hand, falling easily into analysis mode. “You gave him a Noumu for that USJ attack, which completely tipped your hand. And yet, I very much doubt you planned for USJ to succeed. It’s more like—” Izuku furrows his brow. “You wanted to say, ‘I am here!’” Izuku tilts his head up, trying to gauge All For One’s faceless reaction.

All For One doesn’t move, but Izuku senses an aura of amusement. “I wasn’t wrong. You are clever, aren’t you?”

Izuku scowls. That’s not informative. “It doesn’t make sense.” He presses on. “Shigaraki can’t just be a frontman, since you gave yourself away at the first opportunity anyway, but I also very much doubt you’re seriously considering him for, like, succession or something.”

“Oh?” All For One’s tone tips up curiously. “Why not?”

Izuku huffs. “He’s dumb.” He doesn’t bother moderating his scathing tone. He’s about to die anyway. “He’s easier to manipulate than Kacchan, and Kacchan’s the most predictable person I know.”

All For One tips his head the other way and crosses his arms. “Is that so?”

Izuku flinches as the realization hits him so hard he rocks on his heels. “Oh. That’s why. You’re the one manipulating him after all…”

Izuku blinks for another second, trying to digest, before his mental countdown comes to an end. “Well, we’ll talk about that later, maybe. Time’s up.”

“Hm?” All For One hums inquisitively, not expecting Izuku to suddenly launch himself at him without warning.

He kills Izuku with the same blinding speed, though Izuku notes this time his fingers turn into rebar-like spears.

“Oh ho,” All For One chuckles again. “Made up your—”

“Do you have any weaknesses?” Izuku blurts out.

All For One stops and merely looks at him.

Izuku shrugs. “Thought I’d ask.”

All For One throws his head back and actually laughs. It sounds more like the rasp of dry sand through a pipe with that breathing apparatus over his face.

Izuku is a little bewildered the guy can be so lighthearted, but not bewildered enough not to seize the opportunity to kick him in the gut at 100%.

He is delighted when his foot actually connects, bashing All For One through a wall and completely breaking both of his own legs in the process.

He flops down on the floor and sighs at the ceiling when he realizes his poorly timed impulse will mean nothing since he also eliminated his ability to escape.

All For One steps back through the wall, aura menacing and completely devoid of humor. He’s a little dusted up, but otherwise none the worse for wear.

“That wasn’t very wise.” All For One drawls icily.

“Yeah,” Izuku sighs. “I really didn’t think that one through.”

“You must understand, Midoriya Izuku,” All For One continues. “My trap for All Might is already sprung. You have already served your purpose.”

Izuku tilts his head. “Why are you threatening me now?” He had no qualms about instantly killing him the last couple times. It’s odd that he wants to trade words this time.

All For One leans over him menacingly. “Your life has little utility to me.” All For One says. “The only reason you still live is in your value to my enemy.”

Izuku rolls his head on the gritty floor, trying to get a view of All For One’s face that isn’t sideways. Consideringly, he fires up One For All again.

He doesn’t even have to raise his fist, All For One kills him instantly by extending a knife like finger through his skull in the space of a second.

Izuku ruminates as he lets time rewind once more.

“Oh ho,” All For One chuckles. “Made up your mind, did you?”

Izuku frowns at him. “You’re afraid of me.” He realizes.

All For One stills. “Arrogant, aren’t you?” He comments blandly.

Izuku crosses his arms, pulling at his lip with one hand. All For One doesn’t just kill him instantly because he’s a villain and because he can, he kills Izuku because he thinks he must. He wields overwhelming force… in response to overwhelming force.

“No,” Izuku decides. He looks consideringly at his own fist. “You’re afraid of One For All…”

All For One scoffs. “You are many years too inexperienced to be a threat to me, Midoriya Izuku. Reconsider such prideful thoughts before they bring about your end.”

“Hm,” Izuku looks around the bar. Tables and chairs were upturned in the earlier scuffle, and one wall is a wide open hole into the city. The Noumu wait silently, staring blankly and in no particular direction.

All For One has been reacting so fast there’s no way he starts moving the second Izuku does. It’s more like he knows to move before Izuku even moves… Izuku suspects he has some sort of sensing ability for detecting when a quirk is in use. Izuku still has a bit of a delay between firing up his quirk and actually using it, which would explain it…

Izuku turns back to All For One and mentally tallies up the distance between himself and that hole in the wall. Can he move fast enough? He needs to be moving the very moment he turns his quirk on.

“I have a question.” Izuku pipes up.

“Is that so?” All For One leans against the counter again. “Please, go right ahead. I’m an accommodating sort.”

Izuku ignores the sarcasm and barrels right on. “You’re, like, two hundred years old, right?” Don’t piss him off, just distract. Just distract, just distract. There are some very not-nice things Izuku wants to say, but he’s got a plan. “So, if you’ve been around for that long… you probably have, like, a lot of kids, right?”

All For One twitches. “... What.”

“The average adult male will have one or two kids between the ages of twenty and forty.” Izuku rattles off. “Being two hundred that could easily mean one hundred kids! More than that! So, I was thinking…”

All For One is looking at him intently. Izuku guesses he’s the sort to respond to confusion with curiosity, which is how he got his attention so easily with pure bullshit.

“Chances are pretty good…” Izuku slaps his palms together to hopefully distract from the fact he’s bending his knees to prepare for a jump. “That you’re my real dad!”

All For One is still.

Aw, shit. It was easy to make him laugh that first time! “Um,” Izuku waits, tense. “I mean. If you think about it— it’s pretty rare to be born completely quirkless these days. If you factor in that there’s one guy running around from the time when quirks were actually rare— g-genetically speaking… you… would have a greater chance of producing quirkless kids than any other person alive, right?”

All For One sighs with a sound like a cracked bellows. “I’m sorry.”

Izuku blinks. He was not expecting that.

“Grasping at straws in pursuit of family— that’s something I understand.” All For One says in a tone that Izuku would describe as gentle from anyone else. “But your logic is built on nothing but hopeful conjecture, Midoriya Izuku. I am not your father.”

“Oh.” Izuku swallows. “Okay.”

“If that is what you seek,” All For One continues. “You should know I have a vast information network at my disposal. Join me, and I can find for you your real father.”

“Uh,” Izuku hedges. “Sounds cool, but, uh…” His time limit is coming up fast. He needs to do something before All Might arrives. “You know what? Fuck it.”

Distraction a complete failure, he activates Full Cowl and leaps for the exit as fast as he can. If he dies he can just try again, after all.

His theory that All For One has some sort of Quirk Activation Sense and he’s using it defensively is almost immediately proven.

Instead of moving to block the exit, All For One sprouts spikes from his body and obliterates the piece of floor Izuku just vacated with a forward thrust of quivering spikes which would have ripped him to shreds— if he was trying to get to All For One that is.

This tells Izuku several things. One: All For One doesn’t have inhuman reaction times, just forewarning when someone is using their quirk. Two: All For One is definitely afraid of Izuku; enough to kill him at even the slightest sign that Izuku intends to use his power. And most importantly three: Izuku can escape as long as he doesn’t move how All For One expects.

All For One’s attacks are huge and powerful and blink-and-you-miss-’em fast, but so far it seems they’re somewhat one-directional. Overwhelming power means diddly squat if you miss.

“Zigzag,” Izuku whispers to himself with a little grin.

Izuku tumbles onto the asphalt right outside the building. He didn’t have much hope for a successful escape and hadn’t really planned on landing.

“Ow.” He scrambles onto hands and knees. He clings to the reigns of Full Cowl and desperately flings himself perpendicular to the ground, awkward like an origami frog toy.

His intuition is well founded because that little block of pavement is obliterated by a blast of air pressure so sudden and intense he’s blown into a building fifteen feet away even though the attack misses entirely.

Izuku groans as he pushes a heavy cement block off himself where the building facade crumbled on top of him.

“You won’t win.” All For One says in a dark tone as he steps out onto the street with Izuku. “You are outgunned and any further rebellion is unwise.”

Izuku scoffs and shakes dust from his legs as lightning sparks up and down his body. “I’m not trying to win anything. You obviously built a quirk collection specifically designed to defend against my quirk. Even with all that, you can’t kill me, though.” Not in a way that matters, at least.

“Make no mistake.” All For One warns as he raises his hand menacingly. “Your life means nothing to me.”

Izuku moves before All For One finishes talking. He knows a threat when he sees one.

The same air pressure attack blasts out of his palm as before, larger and faster and— OH HOLY SHIT.

Izuku gets pincered by a pair of Noumu the second he jumps free. He barely registers it happening because he’s fascinated by All For One blasting a three mile path through the city with one attack, but huge black hands close around his shoulder, ankle, wrist, skull and squeeze—

Izuku rewinds to just before he leaps and this time he spots the Noumu moving around on both his sides. There’s a lot of dust clogging the air from All For One’s original attack, so their silent, black bodies blend in with the smoot-blackened concrete walls of the alleyway.

All For One really is scared of him if he’s gonna play dirty right off the bat.

Izuku leaps upward instead. The air pressure attack hits right on schedule, flipping him through the air again, but he planned it this time so he sails right over All For One’s head and manages to stick an ankle-twisting landing further down the alleyway.

All For One cuts off the attack early and spins around to face him. Which is curious. He’s acting like his vision depends on the orientation of his head which would suggest he’s relying on natural sight…

“I have allowed you to live this long not out of mercy,” All For One snarls. “But merely because I haven’t yet had cause to kill you.”

Izuku grins cheekily, crouched on the ground with his chin in his hand. “Don’t you mean, because you haven’t managed to kill me yet?”

Izuku screams in pain as he fails his first jump. All For One uses his spikes this time, pushing them out from his body in a twisting, expanding formation which catches Izuku in the thigh, hand, chest—

Oof. Izuku silently berates himself for getting cocky as he rewinds. He’s already proven that All For One is going to pull every trick in the book to kill him. He shouldn't be wasting time on snark.

“But merely because I haven’t yet had cause to kill you.” All For One repeats and sends out his spikes with blinding speed.

This time Izuku dives close to the ground, wincing as he springs on a twinging ankle and drops to slide between a All For One’s legs on his knees.

All For One must panic as much as he is capable of panicking to see Izuku coming at him, because he actually detaches himself from his spike array with a spray of blood and flings himself directly into the air with a suddenness and a smoothness that must be some form of telekinesis.

Izuku rolls back into a crouch and looks at All For One floating in the air with faint awe, and then considers the spikes he’s left on the ground. They stopped writhing the second he tore them free from his flesh. Now they are a rigid, crisscrossing structure of fifteen-foot thorns, bent in configurations meant to capture Izuku in the air.

“If you are wise,” All For One warns. “You will submit, and I just might allow you to live.”

Izuku counts up the Noumu again. They're circling Izuku silently, guided by some sort of telepathic command.

He looks at the spikes.

Izuku has an idea. It might be stupid, but he's got a lot of chances to get it right.

All he really needs to do is even the playing field for All Might after all. He's got less than a minute before the number one hero enters the fray.

Izuku springs forward into the forest of deadly spikes, dodging a grabby Noumu in the process.

One of the spikes snaps off in his hand with a little application of One For All, just like All For One did a moment before.

“Don't get any silly ideas, Midoriya Izuku.” All For One calls.

Izuku wonders why he hasn't moved to attack yet. He's just hanging there in the air making threats, even though his hand seems to have already healed. Maybe he's wise to Izuku’s tactics and he's trying to save energy?

Or maybe he's focusing on controlling the Noumu.

Two Noumu suddenly break free from the loose circle they've formed around him. It's pretty obvious they have speed enhancement quirks because they're right on top of Izuku before he can even blink.

Izuku gives a strangled scream as one Noumu grabs him by the neck and another punches his spine out through his sternum.

Well then.

Izuku rewinds and this time he grabs two spikes while he has the chance.

“Don’t get any silly ideas, Midoriya Izuku.” All For One says while Izuku winds up and launches one of the spines like a javelin at 6%.

It goes straight through the head of one of the speed enhanced Noumu and continues into the concrete behind it.

Izuku doesn’t have any time to shake out his sore shoulder. Before the Noumu has even crumpled to the ground the second one is in his face.

Izuku screeches embarrassingly high-pitched as he dodges under its grab to his throat.

This Noumu is lightning fast, it redirects its attack before Izuku can react and grabs Izuku by the back of his costume.

It lifts him up, whether to throw him or crush him Izuku doesn’t know, and doesn’t want to find out. He doesn’t have a good angle on its head, but as it brings him up to shoulder level, he whips his second spine around and drives it as hard as he can into its shoulder joint.

The Noumu drops him, arm going limp.

Izuku tumbles to the ground and just barely manages not to get trampled by a third Noumu with hands three times the usual size.

This one leans down to grab him.

Desperate, Izuku rolls onto his back and kicks it in the face at 5%.

The Noumu doesn’t react other than to stop for a moment as if jarred. Izuku, however, screams through gritted teeth as his ankle twists further.

He’s going to die if he stays on the ground. More Noumu close in in his peripheral vision.

The big handed Noumu leans forward again— Izuku quickly braces his arm and flicks it point blank in the face at 100%.

The Noumu goes flying and Izuku finally has a second of breathing room, albeit with a broken finger.

Of course, it’s the moment he turns over to get his feet under him that All For One decides to obliterate him with so many spikes to the back he could drop a grenade on Izuku and get the same effect.

Frustrated, Izuku rewinds just enough to spring free of the surprise attack.

When he lands on his feet a few yards away his knee buckles as his ankle lights up with white hot pain. Izuku groans, stumbling and hissing. He can’t have a broken ankle right now. That is not allowed.

When he looks up, gritting his teeth and standing stubbornly on a throbbing ankle, All For One is looking back at him and the Noumu are still.

He blinks. All For One has that curious tilt to his head again.

“Interesting.” All For One says after a beat. “It’s not a form of mindreading.”

“What?” Izuku sweeps his eyes over the alleyway again, much of it is reduced to rubble at this point. The Noumu are all accounted for and still not moving.

“Enhanced reflexes perhaps?” The speedy Noumu he partially disabled charges past him without warning, just a blur of black.

Izuku turns after it passes and watches it run back around behind the other Noumu, one arm flapping uselessly behind it with the shiny metal spike still sticking out of its side.

“Uh…”

“No,” All For One decides. “It’s something else entirely, isn’t it? It must be, to have avoided death with such spectacular aplomb thus far.”

Izuku refocuses warily on All For One.

The man chuckles. “It’s clear I’ve made a mistake. I set the board thinking I knew all the players. But it seems Midoriya Izuku has brought an unknown element to the game. I am truly ashamed of this oversight.”

“Don’t talk in riddles.” Izuku says flatly. “It’s beneath you.”

All For One shakes his head and spreads his hands. “I’m talking about your quirk! Your records all pointed to quirkless. It was foolish of me not to see for myself.” All For One’s tone turns mocking. “Why would Midoriya Izuku hide something like that? It’s not easy to get by in today’s wretched society without a quirk. It must be something worth all that trouble.”

Izuku swallows. He clenches his fists, ignoring the pain of his broken finger. “My only quirk is One For All.”

“Oh, no,” All For One disagrees cheerily. “I know One For All, but what you have there is something interesting.” He tips his head at an angle. “Precognition, perhaps? I can see why you would want to keep something like that underwraps. Hm, I’ve only found a scarce handful of quirks like that. Unfortunately, such quirks almost invariably drive their host insane.”

Izuku swallows nervously. Having All For One figure out that the only thing he needs to do to defeat Izuku is not kill him would be very bad. He can’t let him figure out Quantum Immortality. “That would explain why everyone’s been trying to get me to see a therapist, lately.” Izuku says offhand, his clenched fists shaking. “Apparently, I’ve been acting erratically, though I wouldn’t really quantify that as insane, personally.”

“Hm,” All For One is silent for a moment, contemplative. “What was that you said? ‘Even with all this, I can’t kill you?’”

Izuku grinds his teeth.

“Were you referring, I wonder,” All For One continues. “To my current repertoire of quirks and their ineffectiveness on you, or to your own quirk?”

All For One is smart. Izuku doesn’t doubt he’ll figure out something problematic if he just lets him waffle for another minute.

Izuku hesitantly slides one foot back a couple inches. Should he try running again?

“Well,” All For One raises one hand towards him, palm out. “It can’t hurt to have a looksee, hm?”

Izuku automatically tenses, expecting another air pressure attack. He intends to let this one hit him. If he can just rewind a few seconds—

All For One flexes his fingers and shadowy tentacle-like wisps extend from their tips.

That can’t be good. Izuku panics and tries to sidestep, but his ankle twists and makes him stumble.

The tentacles dive for him, circling him where he’s fallen to the ground, probing at his limbs— until they slip under his flesh and grab hold of his heartbeat—

Izuku’s entire body snaps rigid with a strangled screech.

He can’t move, can’t move, can’t move, CAN’T BREATHE. His chest feels like it’s trying to expand beyond its confines, the pressure is going to kill him—

His heart has stopped. Izuku hears the silence in the sudden stillness.

The world is silent and so unnaturally still beyond the confines of his frozen body, it can only mean the passage of time has ceased as well. All For One and the Noumu stand still, frozen just as Izuku is. The wind doesn’t even stir the still falling dust.

The sun is just setting and the first stars of the night shine in the dying red light. It blinds him as he cannot blink. He’s stuck, staring up, eyes wide and mouth agape. He screams but there is no sound.

All For One’s hideous, invasive quirk holds him hostage, digging ever deeper though his tentacles seem to have no physical form. He can feel it probing at him as if turning his quirk this way and that— like a child pressing all the buttons on a new toy.

But also, all is still. He is trapped in the exact moment All For One’s quirk has flayed his Quantum Immortality quirk wide open. All For One and the Noumu and everything he can see is trapped with him.

Izuku wonders if all the world stands still with him. Is there really a quirk powerful enough to make the entire continent hold its breath? The planet? The universe?

Surely not.

Black fades into his vision slowly or quickly or eternally— time has stopped. It happens all at once, or not at all. He cannot tell. Perhaps both.

But he dies.

Time drags him suddenly and forcefully backwards. A hook sinks right through his center and wrenches him free. The reversal is so sudden after the eternal stillness Izuku’s vision flickers and he swears he sees the stars shift a couple feet to the left.

All For One’s awful quirk slides free of his body— Izuku had almost been afraid he would drag them with him into the past.

Once he’s on his feet again he stumbles and gasps, skin breaking out in a cold sweat.

“Where you referring, I wonder,” All For One says, just as he had said before.

And then he stops right in the middle of his sentence. He raises his arm and looks at his watch.

Izuku blinks and looks at him, startled. This had not happened the first time around.

“Incredible.” All For One breathes reverently. “True temporal manipulation.”

Oh shit. Izuku flinches back. “H-how—”

All For One makes a fist and looks at him. He leans forward like a ravenous wolf cornering a rabbit. “Midoriya Izuku,” All For One says brightly, almost giddy. “Tell me, what do you think of a quirk that gives you the power to take quirks from others?”

Izuku backs up several more steps. His ankle screams at him. “Uh, p-pretty scary?”

“Powerless.” All For One corrects. “Or… only as powerful as the quirks available for the taking. You’d be surprised, but even with two centuries to gather my collection, truly powerful quirks are…” All For One summons his tentacles again. “Remarkably hard to come by.”

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit— This time when All For One summons his creepy shadow tentacles, Izuku doesn’t leave anything to chance. He blocks him with a 100% punch without hesitation.

Oddly, the force of the massive wind and displaced debris doesn’t seem to slow or stop the tentacles at all— but their host is flung backwards hard enough that All For One seems to lose his grip and they dissipate.

One of the few nearby buildings still standing collapses as Izuku destroys a good half of it. All For One disappears into the falling debris along with the Noumu caught in the blast.

Izuku doesn’t have a moment to breathe, however, as the moment the pile of rubble starts to settle, a massive air pressure attack comes his way.

He doesn’t have time to dodge. Izuku flinches and guards his face with his one good arm, knowing he’ll die anyway— maybe this is a blessing—

The attack never hits. He feels the wind disturb his hair, rushing past his face with biting speed, but it doesn’t obliterate him.

Izuku lowers his arm, but he already knows what’s happened, because All Might started his signature laughing before the attack even ended.

“It’s alright!” All Might declares.

When Izuku looks up, All Might is standing over him, his wide shoulders blocking most of the black-orange sky.

“Because I am here!”

Izuku flinches— or he thinks he flinches— no, wait, that’s a sob. Izuku’s throat locks and he shakes. All Might has come, but all Izuku’s managed to do is make things worse.

All For One has cleared the fallen concrete and steel around himself with his attack. He stands in an empty hole of carnage and emanates malice like a foul wind. “All Might.” He intones flatly. “You’re late.”

Izuku shudders. “A-a-all Might—”

All Might doesn’t look back, but he holds an arm out to hold Izuku back. “Fear no more, Young Midoriya! Escape to our allies! I’ve called in as many heroes as I could!”

Izuku shakes his head weakly. He’s not going to leave All Might to face All For One alone.

“Why tell him to escape at all?” All For One chuckles. “With a quirk like that, the boy’s functionally immortal. He’s certainly not going to be the one to die here tonight.”

“There will be no dying tonight, except for your evil plots!” All Might declares.

“Unless, of course,” All For One continues brightly. “I get my hands on that quirk…”

This seems to be some secret signal, like the firing of a gun. All Might charges at All For One with such speed Izuku has to activate Full Cowl just to see him.

The asphalt shatters where they meet, pitting the street with the force of their blows as they dance across the destroyed alleyway.

“You will not lay hands on my student!” All Might declares. “Not while I am here!”

All For One’s voice crackles when he laughs. He sidesteps punches with the odd smoothness of that telekinesis quirk he exhibited before. “A bit late for that, All Might. We were getting up to such fun before you arrived!”

All For One must have been waiting for an opening, because when he strikes, while it seemed that All Might had him on the defensive, it is swift and brutal.

The blast of air pushes All Might back and Izuku, though not in the direct line of fire, is blown off his feet.

Izuku slams into an uneven slab of concrete back first, knocking the breath right out of him.

“Izuku!”

Coughing, Izuku lifts his head and blinks.

All Might is looking back at him, fear straining his smile.

Izuku winces and gives him a shaky thumb up.

“Keep your focus on me, All Might. You cannot afford to show such weakness.” All For One warns before striking again.

This time he’s noticeably aiming in Izuku’s direction.

Izuku winces and grips at the edge of the concrete as the sudden wind threatens to lift him up again. All Might has leapt in front of him, answering All For One’s attack with one of his own.

When the attack ends, All Might coughs into his hand.

Izuku grimaces and painstakingly pulls himself back to his feet. If this continues, the burden of protecting Izuku will kill All Might. He looks down and takes stock of his one extremely broken arm and should-be-out-of-commission ankle.

“I had plans for you tonight, All Might.” All For One says. “Unfortunately, I’ve recently had a change of heart. If you give me the boy, I will let you live.”

“I do not make bargains with villains!” All Might says through a bloody cough. “And especially not for the lives of my students!”

“Hmph,” All For One raises his hand. “Die then.”

Izuku leaps free of the blast zone this time. His ankle screams at him, but if he awkwardly hops on his three somewhat-working limbs it doesn’t immediately give out.

Further back from where All For One and All Might have begun trading blows, it’s easier to see how the Noumu circle them.

Izuku frowns. All Might always has his head turned just enough to keep Izuku in his peripheral vision— but that means he’s got less attention on the actual fight. None of the Noumu have entered the fray yet, but they are obviously waiting for something.

Izuku growls. He won’t let All For One complete whatever scheme he’s got for All Might.

Izuku turns his head back to where All For One left his deadly thorn trap. Back to plan B.

With All For One so thoroughly distracted by All Might, Izuku is able to hop right up and pluck a few of the twisted metal thorns free without issue. His only working arm is his left arm, but the Noumu don’t move much, so he’s successfully speared more than a few brains before All For One turns around.

“Your persistence is admirable.” All For One snarls in a tone that is in no way a compliment.

“These Noumu are kind of an embarrassment when you’re not actively controlling them.” Izuku snarks. “Hope you didn’t need those for anything.”

“Young Midoriya!” All Might implores. “Please, escape!”

Izuku grits his teeth. All Might’s chin is slick with blood where it’s dribbled from the corner of his lips. “I’m not leaving you!”

“How admirable.” All For One says with poisonous delight. “Your successor is a better person than you are.”

All Might grins tightly and steps more firmly in All For One’s path to Izuku.

“He wouldn’t abandon anyone, even those who deserve it. Midoriya Izuku, that’s the name of someone who wouldn’t leave the grandchild of his beloved predecessor to rot.”

That’s oddly specific. Izuku frowns and considers if he can get away with throwing another javelin through a Noumu’s brain even though All For One is looking right at him.

“Speak clearly, All For One!” All Might warns. “Don’t play your mind games with me!”

“Mind games?” All For One tilts his head. “Why, I’m only speaking of Shimura Tenko, grandson of Shimura Nana.”

Positioned as he is, Izuku can see the sudden frisson of emotion as it pulls every muscle in All Might’s back taught.

All For One continues slowly, clearly aware he’s caught his prey. “Of course, he prefers to go by Shigaraki Tomura now. Who can blame him? Rejecting the family that rejected him is one of his few comforts.”

Izuku blinks, bewildered, but All Might full body flinches.

“No,” All Might breathes. “Lies.”

“I don’t lie, All Might.” All For One says. “You know that.”

Shigaraki… Izuku thinks. And Shimura…

All Might visibly wilts, fists dropping to his sides.

“So, you see,” All For One continues, voice dripping viscous and lethal. “You’ve already failed. Your teacher’s grandson loathes you. He has no hope but to destroy you. You cannot save someone so deplorable. Failure is your only option.”

Izuku tenses as All Might hangs his head. Look up, damn it! “All Might!” Izuku yells. “Don’t listen to him!”

All Might shakes his head. “Young Midoriya, you must escape.” He says it tiredly, knowing that Izuku will not heed him.

Izuku growls, lightning zipping up and down his limbs. He won’t run away while All Might fights this viper alone!

“The truth is,” All For One continues. “You were never worthy of that power. You abandoned your duty, just as your predecessor did. And now you come to me to die, just as those before you.” All For One raises his hand and All Might does not lift his eyes. “You are weak and you know it. Let me relieve you of the burden of your guilt—”

“No!” Izuku screams. He moves faster than the wind, zipping in front of All Might in a flash of green light.

His left arm shatters as his punch meets All For One’s attack.

It leaves him armless, but it means All Might lives for a moment more.

“I won’t let you!” Izuku screeches as his arm flops at his side.

“Young Midoriya!” All Might’s hand closes on his shoulder, pulling him backward.

All For One snarls and attacks again.

Izuku raises his thoroughly shattered right arm and punches through it again, screaming in agony as he does so.

“I said!” Izuku screams into the silence once All For One lets up his attack again. “Back the fuck off!”

“Language.” All For One admonishes.

“Young Midoriya, please,” All Might pulls him backwards.

Izuku stumbles on his bad ankle. He twists under All Might’s hands and turns to face him, fierce with angry tears running down his face. “Stop thinking you can quit!” He yells in All Might’s sorry face. “You think it’s over? So that asshole kidnapped a guy you know and brainwashed them or something— it’s not over! Nobody’s dead yet! People can be changed! Even if things seem hopeless there’s always a way! So buck up and punch this bastard!”

There’s light shining directly in his eyes, too bright so he can’t quite see All Might’s face through the shadow it casts.

He does see how All Might stands straighter, his broad shoulders casting a long shadow in the spotlight— wait. Spotlight?

Izuku becomes aware of the whirr of helicopter blades and notices a news copter hovering a hundred feet above them. There’s three of them, actually, circling the fight with cameras and bright lights.

“All For One,” All Might intones darkly. “No matter the atrocities you have committed, your evil deeds will end tonight. I’ll make sure of it!”

Izuku turns around just in time for All Might to grab him and shield him from another massive attack.

“I think you will be the one to end tonight, All Might.”

When Izuku looks up, he’s horrified to see the arm All Might used to stop All For One’s attack has reverted to his shrunken form. Looking up, he sees half of his face has transformed as well.

“It’s as I thought.” All For One chuckles. “You no longer bear One For All and the new vessel is still not ready. There’s a chink,” All For One rolls on his heels, tone bright and delighted. “In society’s defenses.”

All Might grimaces and summons his muscle form back. He coughs and sprays blood on Izuku’s face. “I still have plenty of power to defeat you. Even if it takes all of me.”

“No!” Izuku says, horrified.

All Might’s tight smile turns gentle for a brief moment as he looks at Izuku. “Don’t worry, my boy. Thank you for reigniting my fire. I think I can finish this now.”

Izuku sets his mouth in a grim line. He really wishes he had more arms.

“You won’t be finishing anything, failure.” All For One snarls and attacks again.

All Might meets his attack head on and then the next and the next. His arms lose their muscles, then his legs, he summons it back each time, but—

“All Might!” Izuku calls, limping and with two broken arms, all he can do is stand there and cry.

The lights are too bright in the night, blinding Izuku.

All For One summons the Noumu, but though All Might stumbles and bleeds he flings them aside with overwhelming force. The earth shakes every time he moves and his body melts into wraith-like thinness and pops back into fully muscled power— and melts again, further with each blow.

At last, All Might’s right arm shatters, his power failing at the exact wrong moment so one of All For One’s attacks hits true.

Izuku’s vision blurs with tears as All Might’s blood splatters on the ground.

“You are weak.” All For One declares.

All Might stumbles where he stands. He’s returned completely to his shriveled form.

“Your power is gone and I will end this now.”

Izuku leaps forward with the little strength he has left. He doesn’t have the limbs available for a proper hit, so he headbuts All For One in the stomach with a wordless scream.

All For One stumbles, amazingly enough. Izuku is perpetually surprised how truly human his body is, though it seems impregnable from across a field of rubble.

All For One’s hand snaps closed on his shoulder, gripping him like a vice. “You are continually in my way.”

“I said!” All Might calls suddenly in his booming hero voice. “Do not! Lay hands! On my student!”

All Might wraps one arm around Izuku’s middle and punches All For One in the face with the full force of his prime.

Izuku is forced to close his eyes against the gale force wind released right next to his face. He hears nothing but the howling of displaced air until he opens his eyes and sees All For One lying atop a pile of rubble, caught in a hovering spotlight.

He doesn’t get up.

“A-all Might?” Izuku asks tremulously. He sways and All Might grips him a little tighter, pulling him back against his chest.

Izuku can feel his ribs against his back.

“It’s alright now.” All Might pants. “I’m here.”

He stares at All For One for another minute. His heart is galloping thunderously in his ears. “I— I— wh—”

Despite waiting on heaving breath, All For One remains still.

Izuku swallows and slowly looks up.

All Might’s face is half covered in blood from a cut on his forehead, and his right arm is hopelessly broken. But most of all, his shrunken form is entirely revealed.

Izuku crumples. “I-I-I-I’m s-s-s-sorry!”

“It’s alright now.” All Might repeats.

“Let me go back!” Izuku struggles in All Might’s grip. He’s too weak to escape even with All Might out of power and sporting only one good arm. “I can fix this!”

“It’s alright.” All Might soothes. “I’m here.”

“I-I-I-I sh-shouldn’t have d-done— this is all my fault. I can fix it. I can f-fix—”

“No,” All Might says gently. “No. It’s alright, Young Midoriya. There’s nothing to fix.”

“Yes, there is!” Izuku cries. “I-I almost got my friends killed. I almost got you killed! He figured out my quirk! And-and everyone can see you now. I revealed your secret!”

“It’s alright.”

“If I go back—”

“Don’t, please.” All Might begs him. “It’s alright. Sometimes the consequences are just something you deal with. Everything is going to be fine.”

“This is my fault!” Izuku tries to get across desperately. “And I can fix it! J-just l-let me go!”

“We’re going to get through this. And then we’re going to get through tomorrow.” All Might reasons. “Nobody’s dead yet.”

Izuku shakes his head.

All Might bumps his chin, gesturing for Izuku to look up at him.

“Buck up, Young Midoriya!” All Might gives him his signature grin, though it’s relatively wan and sickly on his shrunken form.

Izuku blinks. “I—”

All Might bumps him again more insistently. “Or did you not mean a word you said?”

“No.” Izuku shuts his mouth and hangs his head.

All Might pats him soothingly. “Sometimes things go wrong, but as long as we move forward with resolve, we can find a solution. It’s okay if it doesn’t come immediately as long as we keep trying. Understand?”

Izuku sniffles.

“A-accepting failure,” All Might continues hesitantly. “Is part of becoming a true hero. And… accepting that others will succeed in your place is part of it, too. I’ve used up the last of my power here. I’m counting on you to take the next one, Young Midoriya. Promise me you’ll always move forward. Don’t look back.”

Izuku begins crying in earnest. “I-I-I—” He hiccups and sobs. “I promise, All Might!” It’s the least that he owes the number one hero.

All Might hugs him with his one good arm, careful of Izuku’s many injuries. “You did good today, Young Midoriya. I’m proud of you.”

Izuku breaks down completely at that. The stress of the day and the last few months pile on until he collapses under the weight. He loses all awareness of the bright spotlights and the deafening whirr of helicopter blades and the rising sirens of emergency vehicles.

He just cries.

Chapter Text

Izuku becomes aware of the blank white tiles on the hospital ceiling. He doesn’t really wake up so much as realize he’s been awake for a while.

His doctor’s lecture about his deteriorating joints still bounces around his head.

He’s way too high to process it yet, but it sticks in his brain like an anxious thorn.

Izuku turns and stares blankly at his bedside table. His mother left apple slices for him. He doesn’t even remember a word she said when she visited earlier. He just knows her hands were warm when they stroked through his hair.

Izuku blinks tiredly when the door to his room slides open with a sudden jerk. He lifts his eyes and meets Aizawa-sensei’s irate stare.

“We took a vote.” Aizawa-sensei says darkly. “Your new title is Problem Child #1.”

Izuku opens his mouth, forgets how words work, and closes it again.

Aizawa-sensei marches up to his bedside and slumps down on the chair his mother left with the air of the perpetually Done-With-This-Shit. He leans over Izuku to hiss. “You know fighting villains without a license is a crime, right? Do you even understand what laws are?”

Izuku nods slowly.

“Well, if you do, you clearly don’t give two shits about it. Heroes are basically police with bigger guns— we are literally government employees. Do you understand why it’s a problem when you act without the blessing of the bureaucracy? You could go to jail. With the shit you just pulled, there’s no way you wouldn’t be tried as an adult. People got hurt, Midoriya. There’s an entire neighborhood in ruins. And the government can’t protect you.”

Izuku frowns. He shifts and thinks about fiddling sheepishly with his hands, but both of his arms are in casts. “B-but—” His throat is dry and he coughs. “N-no one died. And I saved that girl.”

Aizawa-sensei takes a huge breath in and holds it. He has to hold the bridge of his nose with both hands with how close to exploding he looks. “Problem Child… if I weren’t your teacher, I would smite you.”

Izuku doesn’t know how to respond to that. “... Okay.”

Aizawa-sensei releases his breath. He rubs at his eyes. “You know, you’re stupidly lucky.”

“I’ve got a lot of retries.” Izuku nods sagely.

“Don’t.” Aizawa-sensei snaps. “Start sassing me now.”

“... S-sorry.”

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “A particular student went to the police and confessed to using his quirk on you, you know.”

Izuku doesn’t know. He blinks blankly.

“A brainwash quirk.” Aizawa-sensei continues. “He said he forced you to rescue his sister. His name is Shinsou Hitoshi. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

Izuku frowns. “He didn’t use his quirk on me, though. It doesn’t even work very well on—”

“But,” Aizawa-sensei cuts him off. “That is what happened, isn’t it?”

Izuku blinks. He’s too high to figure out what Aizawa-sensei is trying to beam into his brain with that glare. “Um,”

“Yes?” Aizawa-sensei prompts, jaw ticking.

“... Yes?”

“Good.” Aizawa-sensei says flatly and leans back. “All settled then. It’s been decided that considering the extenuating circumstances, all charges against the minors will be waived. UA just needs to pay a few fines, but it’s not like the school’s bank account is hurting for it.”

“Oh.” Izuku blinks.

Aizawa-sensei leans forward again to snarl. “However, Problem Child, pull this shit again on my watch and you’ll be in detention until you’re a grandfather. Understand?”

That’s a scary face, but Izuku’s feelings are too distant through the haze of drugs to really summon any fear. “Okay.”

Aizawa-sensei shakes his head and slumps back in his chair again. “... If only Nedzu didn’t keep rejecting my request for leashes.” He mumbles tiredly. “My job would be so much easier.”

Izuku looks at Aizawa-sensei’s beleaguered expression and recognizes the same face he’s been making at Izuku for the past few days. It’s full of helplessness… which isn’t a great look on an authority figure. He takes a deep breath in until it hitches, constrained by the bandages around his chest. He’s got a couple cracked ribs, but he doesn’t remember when that happened.

“A-aizawa-sensei?”

“Problem Child.” Aizawa-sensei acknowledges flatly.

“Th-that thing you were talking about. The— um, the therapist. W-would that help…” Izuku trails off shyly. He remembers the twist and snap of Shigaraki’s bones in his hands and liking it. He remembers hurting Shouto in a blind panic. Violence has never come so easy to him. It scares him to look back and see the pattern.

Aizawa-sensei’s shoulders go loose as he huffs a huge sigh. “Depends. It’s not like taking a pill to make the pain go away. You work at it.”

Izuku chews at his lip. He can admit at this point that he probably needs the help. “But… you think I should… right?”

Aizawa-sensei considers him with shadowed eyes. “... Yes. I can’t help you beyond a certain point, Midoriya. You need a professional and you need to help yourself.”

Izuku nods. “Okay.”

Aizawa-sensei sits up a little straighter. “You mean you’ll do it?”

Izuku nods again. He doesn’t want to walk the path he’s been walking since that awful night during summer camp. He needs a new path.

Aizawa-sensei sighs. “Good. That’s… good.” He pats Izuku awkwardly on the head and stands up. “I’ll make the phone calls. Anyway, you’ve got some classmates waiting outside who are dying to see you. Should I let them in?” Aizawa-sensei jabs a thumb over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow.

Izuku pauses. He’s genuinely exhausted.

But.

“Yeah.” Izuku breathes. “L-let them in, please.”

Aizawa-sensei nods sharply. “I will. See ya later, Problem Child.”

When his friends come in it's like a torrent of bodies comes tumbling into the room.

Kaminari goes careening to the floor as Ashido and Sero elbow their way through the too-small doorway with unholy screeches of, “Midoriya!”

Uraraka literally vaults the three of them to get in front.

“Please proceed in an orderly fashion!” Iida yells from the hallway outside. “We are in a hospital!”

“Oh my God, Deku!” Uraraka exclaims. “I'm so glad you're okay!” She pats carefully at his thigh, one of his few body parts without an obvious injury.

Izuku blinks as the entire 1-A class squeezes into his ward. Sans Bakugou, of course. He’s way too high for this. A lot of people are saying his name and yelling over each other.

“Um,” Izuku says, too slow to process the many voices directed at him. “H-hi…”

Kaminari scrambles up from under Ashido and puts both hands to his head with an awed expression. “Midoriya! YO! You’re alive!”

“I’m alive…” Izuku repeats sheepishly as Ashido and Sero hoot.

“Dude,” Kirishima says as he drops— yes, that’s got to be a gift basket full of forty McDonald’s happy meals, of all things— on his bedside table. “We saw you on the telly. So manly.”

“EVERYONE BE QUIET.” Iida suddenly screeches to be heard over everyone.

Izuku blinks as the overwhelming noise abruptly stops.

Iida coughs and adjusts his glasses. He straightens smartly. “This is very inconsiderate behavior! Midoriya has been through a very trying ordeal and needs to recover! If everyone cannot remain calm and respectful I will have to ask all of you to leave!”

There’s a discontent murmur, then Tsuyu steps up next to Iida. “Mido is looking a little peaky, kero.” She addresses Izuku directly with one finger to her lip. “Would it be alright if we took turns, kero?”

Izuku sweeps his eyes over his many classmates. Yeah… He can’t even count that high at the moment. He nods.

“Dibs.” Uraraka says smartly and plops down on the edge of Izuku’s cot.

“Right!” Iida unnecessarily adjusts his glasses again. “If everyone could make a line outside—”

“LAST ONE IN LINE IS A VILLAIN!” Kaminari calls, summoning a swift exodus as tumultuous as the previous entrance, if a mite quieter.

“NO RUNNING IN THE HOSPITAL!” Iida calls and follows his herd of wildlings back outside.

“... ‘Kay.” Izuku says after a minute to only Uraraka.

Uraraka snorts. She pats at his knee. “You okay, Deku?”

Izuku shrugs, winces as he pulls at the bandages around his shoulders, and says, “Technically, I’ve broken more bones than this.”

“Yeah,” Uraraka agrees sarcastically. “Not a great reference point, Deku. Some might call that unfortunate.”

Izuku shrugs awkwardly with his face instead of hurting himself again, scrunching his nose up and squinting.

Uraraka pets his knee through the blanket. “You’re really alright, though? Gonna get right back up again like always?”

Izuku huffs. “Eventually. Gimme a couple days. I only have one working limb and no thumbs.”

“Right.” Uraraka rolls her eyes at him. “You’re really something else.” She deflates with a rough sigh. “And I— I was really worried. I don’t know what I would have done if—” Uraraka cuts off to bite her lip.

Izuku waits, blinking slowly.

“Deku,” Uraraka says after a moment. “We’re friends, right?”

Izuku blinks, bemused. “I think so?”

“You think so?” Uraraka raises an eyebrow.

“I’m sorry. I’m really high right now. Please, don’t ask me hard questions.”

Uraraka snorts. “It’s not a hard question! We’re friends, dummy.”

“Oh, okay.” Izuku relaxes. Given his luck with friends, he wouldn’t have been surprised if that took a turn for the worse.

Uraraka sighs. “What I wanted to say is…” Uraraka twiddles her thumbs in her lap. She looks down at them to avoid Izuku’s eyes. “When we charged into the villain’s lair like that to save that little girl. That was such a stupid thing to do. Brave, but stupid. And really dangerous.”

Izuku sighs. This is going to be another lecture. Something tells him there’s quite a few more in his future.

“But…” Uraraka looks up. “Even though you got hurt— even though you almost died— I don’t regret it at all. Is that— you understand that, right, Deku? You’re my friend, and I’m sorry you got hurt, and I’m sorry we got in trouble, but I’m glad we did it anyway. I talked to Shinsou after. He, um, he was here this morning, but he had to go home to look after his sister. We made a difference— even though it was dangerous, we saved a little girl. That makes it all worth it, doesn’t it?”

Izuku turns to stare at the ceiling and chews on the inside of his lip. He remembers the taste of ash and dust in the air and All Might’s shrunken arm wound tight around his ribs, holding him upright in the center of devastation. ‘Promise me.’

Izuku sighs, closing his eyes.

“Deku?”

Izuku opens his eyes. He considers Uraraka. She looks back at him with sweet, round eyes. There’s nothing apologetic about her. It’s what drew Deku to her to begin with. She’s full of determination, tempered only by compassion. They’re of a like mind in that regard.

“Uraraka, why did you choose to become a hero?”

“Oh?” Uraraka blinks. She fiddles with her hands. “Well, the easy answer is money. My family has always struggled.” She relates with a matter-of-fact tone. “I want to give back even more than they’ve ever given me.”

“You could have been a doctor.” Izuku notes. “A businesswoman. Hell, a thief. There are so many safer ways to make money.”

Uraraka gives him a little smile. “Yeah, but there’s another reason I didn’t choose any of those. I want to help people. Really, I want to give back to everyone. And maybe someday, that will inspire others to keep on giving. That’s my real reason. I want to make a difference.”

Izuku nods. It’s not a surprise. “Well, if all you ever want to do is give, then you might as well quit now.”

Uraraka flinches. “D-deku?”

Maybe that was too harsh. Izuku frowns, carefully gathering his fuzzy thoughts for a minute. “I mean… you’re looking at this through the lens of victory. But you have to remember, you could have died, too. We all could have died. Even that little girl. A-All Might almost died.” He finishes with a whisper.

Uraraka looks away.

“Would all of our deaths have made it worth it?” Izuku wonders. “How many of our friends would you trade for a stranger?”

Uraraka shakes her head. “Deku… I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Neither did I.” Izuku snaps.

Uraraka looks up to raise her eyebrows at him.

Izuku bites his tongue. He chews on it for a minute until the sudden ire subsides. “If it comes down to it, I wouldn’t trade a single one of you for a stranger. I don’t care if that doesn’t make me a hero.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.” Uraraka repeats quietly.

“I know.” Izuku sighs. “But w-when the shit hits the fan y-you really have to be so fucking aware of the effect of all your decisions. If y-you’re thinking like that… it would be so easy to get someone you care about killed. You don’t have to mean it, you just have to fail to think about it.”

Uraraka touches his knee. “Deku, please, don’t cry.”

Whether the tears in his eyes are of anger of despair, he doesn’t know. “S-sorry. I just… you know, of all of us, the only life I was willing to trade was my own.”

Uraraka’s fingers tighten on his knee.

Izuku laughs shortly, breath hitching against his broken ribs. “But in the end, I traded All Might.” He rolls his head to look directly at Uraraka. “You realize that, right? The Symbol of Peace is gone forever, because I hatched a stupid plan. My intentions were good, but look where we are now.”

Uraraka returns her hand to her lap. She looks down and away.

Izuku licks his lips. “S-so, what I mean by all this is… being a hero is the hardest thing I can think of. But it’s not hard because of the villain fights or whatever. It’s hard because if you want to live longer than a day, if you want to do right by all the people who love you, you have to swallow the realization that you can’t save everyone. You have to accept that your life is precious… preserving yourself is the most important thing sometimes.”

Uraraka clasps her hands tightly in her lap. Her knuckles whiten and red gathers around the indents her fingertips press into her skin. “If I had died… my parents would have nothing left.”

Izuku huffs. Cynical. “I hate that, you know. It doesn’t feel right, does it? A hero is a hero because they always win. Stupid of me not to notice that this world is that way because the heroes just never fight the losing battles. I don’t want to walk away because I’m weak. H-how can I say that s-someone doesn’t get to be saved, because I am not enough?” Izuku shakes his head against the pillows. “I’m not enough… I can’t save everyone. I hate that.”

“Deku…” Uraraka presses on his knee gently. “I think I understand.”

“Wish I didn’t.” Izuku grumbles sadly. He’s been such an idiot.

Uraraka sighs. “Deku, when we’re pros, we’ll work together, right?”

Izuku lifts his head to look at her.

“We’re going to get stronger.” Uraraka says determinedly. “And if we’re not strong enough alone, we have each other. And if we’re still not strong enough, we have everyone else, right?”

Izuku blinks.

Uraraka smiles. “Maybe we have to pick our battles. That’s wise, I think. But we’re going to win a fuckton of them.”

Izuku huffs a short laugh. “A fuckton.” He repeats.

“A fuckton.” Uraraka says with finality. “I believe in us. I believe in our friends. Together we can give more than we can individually, right?”

Despite everything, Izuku smiles a little. Uraraka’s earnestness is contagious. “... Yeah.”


The rest of his classmates have obviously been given a harsh dressing down from Iida. They file in one after the other in an orderly fashion and mostly keep their voices down.

Most of them have only a few words and a present. Izuku isn’t terribly close with all of them. He gets a lot of sweets, a whole cake from Sato, a crayon-drawn card from Kaminari, Ashido, and Sero, a mix CD from Jirou, a pair of cute froggy socks from Tsuyu, and his own lecture from Iida. That last one he absorbs approximately none of and spends the entire time blinking dazedly at how Iida’s glasses flash under the fluorescent lights.

Kirishima comes in and explains that the McDonald’s boxes are all full of All Might limited edition toys, because the franchise apparently resurrected an old line in light of the recent news. Kirishima bought as many as he could. Izuku cries for a couple minutes once Kirishima sheepishly cracks a box open to show him.

Last comes Yaoyorozu. She steps carefully into the room, one step after the other, hunching shyly with one arm held across her body, opposite elbow pulled tight against her side to make her smaller.

Izuku frowns. His brain isn’t very good at noticing patterns considering all the morphine, but he’s starting to get impatient. “Is Shouto out there?”

“Um?” Yaoyorozu startles. She switches which arm she’s holding across her body with an awkward flailing motion. “N-n-n— well.”

Izuku wiggles, trying to get up. “Is he okay? I haven’t seen him. If—”

“He’s fine.” Yaoyorozu cuts him off. “J-just… okay, um, I feel like I shouldn’t tell you, because, um, he deserves my loyalty as his friend, but you are his boyfriend, so I should probably tell you.”

Izuku stares meaningfully at her.

Yaoyorozu shuffles. “Uh, okay, he’s having a freak-out in the men’s restroom. We’ve all tried talking him down, but, well, you know how he is.”

Izuku struggles into a sitting position, bulldozing right through the sharp pain in his ribs. “Why? What’s wrong? Is Endeavor here?”

“Um,” Yaoyorozu hesitates, obviously thrown for a loop. “No… should I call End—”

“No!” Izuku snaps. “Never call Endeavor!”

“Uh,” Yaoyorozu looks nervously at the floor. “Okay.”

Izuku huffs and puffs as he struggles with his drug-heavy limbs. He wiggles out of his covers and swings his legs over the edge of the bed. It’s more than a bit awkward with both his arms in casts.

“Wait!” Yaoyorozu cries. “You should stay in bed.”

“I need to go to the restroom.” Izuku says brazenly. He briefly considers the boot cast around his one ankle, decides he’s had worse, and tries to stand.

He nearly topples over with the sharp stab of pain that lances up his leg. He tangles with the IV as he flails and upturns the stand it is attached to.

“Careful!” Yaoyorozu springs to catch the falling IV stand and then steadies Izuku with a couple forceful taps to his chest as if she’s nervous to touch him. “You really shouldn’t be walking around.”

“I’m gonna see Shouto.” Izuku says determinedly.

Yaoyorozu sighs. “Just— just sit down. Please. You’re going to hurt yourself.”

Izuku flops back on the bed with a mulish expression. He doesn’t sit because he wants to, but because his legs give out.

“Thank you. Um, how ‘bout I get you a wheelchair?”

Izuku looks up with awe. Yaoyorozu is always so reasonable.

“Right.” Yaoyorozu ducks shyly under his stare. “If you just give me a minute.” She turns away and pulls up her shirt. The walls reflect the flash of her quirk and out pops a couple wheels and a steel chair frame. “Um…” She mumbles. “Just a minute. Some assembly required…”

Izuku waits as she frantically puts all the pieces together. It’s not hard for his brain to suddenly clear of dark regrets about All Might and All For One and hook on worrying about Shouto. The boy has that effect on him… plus his drugged brain can only hold one thought at a time.

He shifts his stiffly casted arms. He wants to clench his fists, but he can barely twitch his fingers. He reminisces on the serene beauty of Shouto standing in the middle of the carnage of the League’s hideout. He put Shouto in danger again for another stupid plan. Shouto has every reason to be upset…

“Right!” Yaoyorozu turns the newly created wheelchair upright and brings it flush with the bed. “If you, um, can you hop? Please, be careful.”

Izuku’s only got one limb, and it’s a leg wobbly with opioids. However, with Yaoyorozu’s guiding hands he manages to shuffle carefully into the chair. She grabs his IV stand to take with them.

Izuku points his nub of a right arm at the door. “That way!”

Yaoyorozu sighs. “I know. Just— please tell me if you're feeling unwell…” Yaoyorozu takes the wheelchair handles and pushes him out the door. “Well, more unwell…”

Izuku glares determinedly straight ahead as Yaoyorozu pushes him out into the hall and tries not to feel impotent inside his useless, broken body. There are so many things that have happened that could have gotten under Shouto’s skin. The boy really is more fragile than he lets on.

All Might retiring would be a sad event for anyone else, but for Shouto, who has to go home to Endeavor, it could have been downright frightening. Izuku grinds his teeth and starts daydreaming about ripping Endeavor’s flaming mustache out with his bare hands.

… He definitely needs therapy.

That’s not even to mention everything that happened immediately before. Izuku suddenly remembers the way Shouto’s usually impassive expression cracked as he yelled him down. How those icy walls in his eyes went up harder and higher than he’s seen since the Sports Festival.

Izuku is hit with visceral shame. “Yaoyorozu…” He whispers. “Is Shouto mad at me?”

Yaoyorozu stops pushing the wheelchair. Izuku flinches a little, feeling briefly stranded in the nearly empty hospital corridor with no way to go anywhere with his broken limbs. He turns to look back.

“Yaoyorozu?”

The girl’s got tears in her eyes. Izuku is alarmed.

“U-um—”

“I-I’m sorry.” Yaoyorozu says haltingly. “Midoriya, I just can’t let you think that. Todoroki l— c-cares about you deeply, and—” She sniffles. “If anyone should be mad, you should be livid with me.”

Izuku blinks. “Why would I be mad at you?”

Yaoyorozu hangs her head. “It’s my fault this happened.”

Izuku is even more alarmed. “Yaoyorozu! No!”

She sniffs roughly. “Y-you had a good plan. I-I-I j-just… I choked.” Yaoyorozu says in a strained whisper. “M-my quirk takes c-concentration, so I— but I— I could have done it right.” Yaoyorozu sags, her knees going out from under her and the wheelchair rolling slightly as all her weight goes onto the handles. “I was just so afraid. I knew all I needed to do was follow your plan— m-make the explosives a-and the— c-computer chips have so many little parts and I couldn’t— I-I’m sorry.”

Izuku sags with her. He did this. “Yaoyorozu, it’s okay.”

She makes a choked off sound. “It’s my fault you were hurt!”

“The fault is my own.” Izuku says gently. “I involved you when I shouldn’t have. I—” Izuku takes a shuddering breath, swallowing his pride with a grimace. “I got involved when I shouldn’t have.”

Yaoyorozu shakes her head. “Y-you trusted me, but I failed you.”

“I failed you first.” Izuku returns. “Can you forgive me?”

Yaoyorozu looks up at him with red eyes. “M-midoriya, of course, I don’t blame you—”

“I don’t blame you, either.” Izuku bites his tongue. He blames himself too much to give anyone else the credit. “And I can’t stand the thought of you thinking you’re at fault. I’ll never forgive myself at this rate.”

Yaoyorozu chews on her lip. She stares up at him with sad eyes for a moment.

Finally, she breathes out in one big rush. “You really are hopelessly stubborn.”

Izuku shrugs weakly. “But you understand what I’m saying, right?”

Yaoyorozu straightens up, wiping at her eyes with an air of embarrassment. She sighs. “If you’d listen to Todoroki,” she murmurs lowly as if to herself. “That’s apparently a virtue.”

Despite everything, Izuku brightens hopefully. “He said that about me?” He sobers up immediately at another look at Yaoyorozu’s red eyes. “I mean, about what I was saying before—”

Yaoyorozu shakes her head. “I realize the futility of arguing with you, Midoriya.” She swipes her arm across her eyes. “You two are a pair, at least…”

Izuku perks up again. “S-so— he’s not too mad at me?”

Yaoyorozu gives him a faintly fond look. “I don’t think he’s mad at you at all.” She starts pushing his wheelchair again. “And, um, Midoriya?”

Izuku turns around again to look at her face.

Yaoyorozu blushes. “Y-you were very impressive. You came up with a plan so easily and you were so brave, um—” Yaoyorozu ducks her head. “I-I don’t want to ask too much, b-but do you think you could help me to be like that? M-maybe recommend a book or a training regimine. I-I don’t mean to ask for your time, um—”

Izuku brightens up considerably. “Your quirk is so versatile.” He gushes. “I have almost a full notebook about just your quirk!”

Yaoyorozu blushes even harder. “O-oh— I couldn’t ask—”

Izuku bounces a little in his wheelchair. “I haven’t got the formula just right— how you convert calories into matter. It has to do with the strength of the chemical bonds, right? The more stable the bond between atoms the more energy it takes, right? So, you can create greater quantities of unstable matter from just one hamburger. So, theoretically, you could make a lot more ice than you could diamonds with the same amount of energy—” Izuku gasps. “We should compare to Shouto! I bet he can make a lot more and faster, but it would tell us a lot about—”

Yaoyorozu huffs, amused. “I didn’t realize this would be so much fun for you. I feel like I have to do it now.”

Izuku blushes. “S-sorry, um,” He blinks and realizes he just forgot about the current boyfriend dilemma. He frowns at himself. “I am on drugs.”

Yaoyorozu giggles a little. “It’s okay, Midoriya. I appreciate it, regardless.”

Izuku pouts and stays silent the few minutes until they reach the aforementioned restroom. He’s focusing intensely on not forgetting Shouto again.

Izuku is expecting anger. He’s expecting to endure a shouting down and maybe a few well-deserved insults.

Instead he finds Shouto lying morosely facedown on the tile floor among the scattered petals of a thoroughly destroyed rose bouquet.

Jirou is kneeling next to him with a sheepish expression. She sighs with relief when she sees Izuku roll onto the scene. “Oh, thank god.”

Standing up, she makes her not-so-discreet escape. “You handle this, Midoriya, I’m beyond done.”

Izuku frowns as Shouto abruptly snaps his head up. “Izuku is here?”

Their eyes meet and Izuku watches with concern as honest-to-god fear flashes across his boyfriend’s face.

“Hey, hon,” Izuku calls gently.

Shouto puts his head back down on his arms to hide his face. “You should be in bed.”

“I wanted to see you.” Izuku turns at the click of the door and realizes Yaoyorozu has escaped with Jirou. Izuku frowns at the ten feet of space still between him and Shouto and his nubby arms.

“I don’t see why.” Shouto says flatly, still hiding his face.

Izuku takes a minute to consider his words carefully. He doesn’t understand what has even brought this on, and he’s high enough he could say something stupid. In the end, he decides honesty is the best policy.

“Because I like you.”

Shouto snaps his head up again to give him an incredulous look.

Izuku grins a little. “And you are very pretty to look at. That’s a good reason, too.”

Shouto doesn’t blush like he was hoping. Instead, he chews viciously at his lip and drops his eyes.

“You’re lying to make me feel better.”

Izuku frowns thunderously. Who put this idea in Shouto’s head?

“You shouldn’t have to, Izuku… I would understand if you wanted to break up with me.”

“WHAT.” Izuku squawks loud enough he tweaks his ribs. He winces.

Shouto glares at the floor. “You probably should, after all I’ve done.”

Izuku is suddenly both viciously angry and paralyzingly sad. Tears gather rapidly in his eyes and blur his vision. “You’re breaking up with me?” He chokes out.

“No!” Shouto sounds horrified.

Izuku blinks in confusion. “B-but you w-want to break up with me?”

“N-no.”

Izuku is officially thrown for a loop. He frowns and blinks the tears out of his eyes. “Th-then why are you talking about breaking up?”

Shouto sits up to get a better angle for glaring at the floor.

“Shouto?”

Izuku can see Shouto’s jaw ticking. “I don’t understand why you think so highly of me.”

Izuku scowls. “Who made you think this? Give me a name.”

“No one.”

Izuku growls. “Whoever they are they couldn’t be more wrong.”

When Shouto continues glaring stubbornly at the floor, Izuku gets a little desperate.

“I like you.” Izuku sighs. He doesn’t know a better way of saying it. “L-like a lot. To me you’re just… I simply like you.”

Shouto wraps his arms around himself. “Why?”

Izuku flounders for a moment. He waves his nubs awkwardly. “Why?” Feelings are simple. You feel them and therefore they exist. Izuku doesn’t know how to explain that. “Y-you— you’re nice. To me. Like, all the time. You always know what to say to make me feel better. I mean, I know you’re kind of awkward sometimes, but you’re so, just, honest and— I-I like that. And-and w-when I look at you, sometimes, it’s like the world stops spinning and sometimes I feel like I need that, you’re just—” Izuku trails off sheepishly. “I like you.”

Shouto scowls. “I’m not nice.”

Izuku huffs. “You’re super nice. A bit petty, but nice.”

Honesty is apparently not the best policy. Shouto crumples, curling in on himself.

“I am petty…”

“Shouto,” Izuku calls worriedly. “I didn’t mean it like that. I-I think it’s kinda cute…”

Shouto shakes his head. “I’m not nice either. I-I—” Shouto stops to chew at his lip. “You deserve better than me.”

“Shouldn’t I make that decision?”

Shouto flinches.

Izuku sighs worriedly. “Shouto, what brought this on?”

Shouto looks determinedly at the floor.

Izuku considers the slope of his shoulders and the mess of scattered rose petals he’s moping among like a defeated romantic lead.

“Honestly,” Izuku says. “I thought you would be mad at me.”

Shouto shakes his head. “Why would I be mad at you?”

“I did a stupid thing. Well, a lot of stupid things.” Izuku says evenly. “I put you in danger. I put our friends in danger.” Izuku hangs his head. “I treated you unkindly…”

Shouto twitches, wrapping his arms tighter around himself.

Izuku sighs, carefully gathering the words to explain himself. “I’m sorry about all of that. I’d like to explain my behavior, though I don’t think I deserve it. I was wrong and nothing really excuses that.”

Shouto looks at him through his bangs, eyes shadowed.

Izuku takes a deep breath. He had done this before, technically. Shouto deserves to know. “I have a time manipulation quirk.”

Shouto blinks and fully looks up at him.

“I can’t really prove it, because I can’t bring anyone with me when I turn back time. Nor would I really want to, because the only way to trigger my quirk is to die.”

Izuku watches as Shouto’s eyes widen.

Izuku smiles sadly. “By the time I decided to infiltrate the League, as you remember it, I was on my third run through of that day. The previous two runs had significantly more casualties. I was…” Izuku shifts uneasily. “Desperate. And I made some ill-advised decisions predicated on the thought that I could just erase anything bad that happens.”

Shouto twitches up on his knees and then drops back down in indecision. He looks up at Izuku with wide eyes.

Izuku sighs. “But that’s not really how it works. I-I can’t stand to endure those bad things.” Izuku hangs his head. “Even if it would give me the information needed to do a perfect rerun… I-I can’t stand to watch you get hurt. O-or anyone else for that matter.” Izuku sniffs. “I can’t do that again. W-when All For One showed up, I knew how much danger I had put you in. And I was so scared of watching you die again.”

Izuku looks at Shouto determinedly. “That’s why I yelled at you. Even if you hate me for it, I don’t regret getting you out of danger.”

Shouto twitches uncertainly. He frowns. “I… don’t like to be yelled at.” He chews his lip and amends. “I really don’t like it.”

Izuku nods. “Nobody does.”

Shouto scowls. “No! I mean… I hate it. It makes me into a bad person.”

“You’re not a bad person, Shouto.”

“I wanted you to get hurt!” Shouto snaps. “When you raised your voice at me I-I went all hollow inside and for a minute I hated you! I-I walked away thinking you’d get what you deserve.” Shouto drops his face into his hands. “W-when I realized— they wouldn’t let me go back for you. I-I left you there—”

“Shouto,” Izuku melts sadly. “I understand.”

“You shouldn’t!” Shouto says. “I-I left you to die. Because I’m petty.”

Izuku grits his teeth. Knowing what he does of Endeavor and all Shouto has endured, it is so normal for him to react like that. Honestly, it is a miracle Shouto is kind. Trauma could so easily make you hateful.

“You know when I broke Shigaraki’s arms?” Shouto is silent, his face hidden in his hands. “I liked it when he screamed. His bones snapped like twigs in my hands and I felt powerful.” Shouto still won’t look at him. “I enjoyed it because the second time I watched you die, he enjoyed every second.”

Shouto finally looks up. He blinks at him.

“I still dream about it.” Izuku whispers. “I couldn’t get to you, and you just-just screamed as he—” Izuku grits his teeth, his throat closing up. “I couldn’t save you then. Ever since I’ve just been waiting until I could get my hands on Shigaraki and make him scream.” He grinds his teeth for a minute. “I-I know that’s not very heroic of me. What I’m saying is… it’s normal to have a little darkness in you. Especially for you and me.”

Shouto swallows. “Is that what your nightmares are about?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry you had to see that.”

Izuku huffs, fond and amused. He shakes his head. “That’s what you said last time I told you.”

Shouto chews on his lip.

Izuku shifts awkwardly. “S-sorry. You don’t remember— I had to erase it, ‘cuz, um, of the Shinsou thing.”

Shouto shifts up on his knees. “What else have you erased? Have I…” Shouto clasps his hands in his lap and stares at them. “Have I… treated you well?”

Izuku grins. “You shouldn’t doubt yourself. You’re great.”

Shouto chews his lip. “Izuku…” He hesitates. “Is the reason you asked me out… something you erased?”

Izuku’s grin falters. He licks his lips nervously and looks at the wall. “Not really? I mean… it’s more that I just… noticed I had a chance with you during a certain event. And decided I definitely wanted you by my side during a certain other event… Neither of which you would remember…”

“What did I do?” Shouto wonders.

“Uh,” Izuku winces. “You kissed me the first time, um, you died.”

Shouto’s eyes widen.

“It was my fault!” Izuku rapidly explains. “I was trying to take out a villain, but you were in the way and—”

Shouto blinks. “Am I that good a kisser?”

Izuku chokes. “U-um— that’s not—”

Shouto’s eyes go a little wider as he works it out. “I-I a-already kissed—” A hot flush of scarlet takes over his face. “W-we— oh.”

Izuku blushes on reflex. “It wasn’t… um… so, that happened. I just… hadn’t realized you liked me before that…”

Shouto’s face goes impossibly redder. “And-and you said there was another event.”

Izuku winces. “I don’t really want to talk about that.”

“Did I die then, too?” Shouto wonders.

“Yes.” Izuku says through gritted teeth.

“Shigaraki?”

“Yes.” Izuku growls.

Shouto stands up abruptly. “I think I understand now.”

Izuku looks up at him hopefully. “You do?”

Shouto nods decisively, before abruptly looking down and away, his shoulders tense. “Just… don’t yell at me, please.”

“I’m sorry.” Izuku says sorrowfully.

“I don’t like it.” Shouto relates succinctly.

“I’m sorry.” Izuku repeats with a tearful whine.

Shouto sighs. “I’m sorry, too.” He steps forward and looks at Izuku shyly. “I would like to be better. I think you make me better.”

Izuku smiles brilliantly, warmth spreading all the way to his toes. “You’re not gonna break up with me?”

“No. I really don’t want to.” Shouto says honestly. He smirks. “And you’re too stubborn to change your mind.”

Izuku nods rapidly.

Shouto sighs, stepping up until his thighs bump Izuku’s knees. “Only you would have two ridiculously strong quirks that are both awful for you.” He mutters.

Izuku shrugs sheepishly. “You believe me, though? About the time manipulation?”

“Of course.”

Izuku melts happily. “You always believe me. That’s another reason I like you.”

Shouto blushes. “You don’t have to keep cheering me up. I get it.”

“Oh!” Izuku says. “And you’re really pretty. I think I forgot to say that part.”

“I-Izuku,” Shouto stutters. He sighs, grabs Izuku’s face with both hands, and leans down to mash their lips together.

Izuku squeaks.

Shouto backs up almost immediately, his face beet red.

Izuku’s face is nearly the same color, squashed between Shouto’s palms.

“I-I’m sorry,” Shouto bites his lip. “S-since we already— I wanted a kiss I remembered—”

Izuku bulls through the crippling embarrassment to grin. “You didn’t burn me this time!”

Shouto pales. “I did that?”

“A couple times. I think it’s just ‘cuz you’re nervous.” Izuku leans forward, hoping for another kiss, but he can’t comfortably reach Shouto from his position. He pouts. “Kiss me again?”

Shouto looks at him like a deer in headlights. “I-I don’t want to hurt you.”

Izuku pouts more insistently. “But you didn’t burn me just now!”

Shouto visibly wars with himself, his eyes tracking back and forth across Izuku’s face like he’s looking for something.

“Shouto,” Izuku whines. “I wanna kiss you!”

Shouto softens, stroking a thumb over Izuku’s cheek, and then he gives in.

Izuku sighs as Shouto presses their lips together more gently this time. He’s still got Izuku’s face clasped in both hands so he can’t move much, but he’s also partially supporting him, which he kind of needs with the current state of his body. It’s nice.

When Shouto pulls back he looks uncertain. “Was that okay?”

Izuku blinks, brain fuzzy from more than just drugs. After a moment, he smirks. “I dunno. We should try again to make sure.”

Shouto bites his lip on a smile. “Really?”

“Really, really.” Izuku affirms.

Shouto’s lower lip escapes his teeth and he honest-to-god smiles. Izuku basks in the golden light.

“You’re so pretty.” Izuku sighs dreamily.

Shouto flushes red. “Y-you are, um, nice to look at, too.”

Izuku blushes back. “R-really?”

“Really, really.” Shouto repeats back at him.

“I can’t be so nice to look at now.” Izuku says. “I’m black and blue.”

Shouto kisses him softly. “You’re still handsome.”

“Ohh!” Izuku grins into the kiss. “I’m handsome.”

“A-and pretty—” Shouto amends. “I don’t— aren’t you supposed to use handsome for guys? I thought—”

“I’m not criticizing.” Izuku brushes his lips over Shouto’s. “Mm.”

Shouto blushes bright red and kisses him a little harder. Izuku hums appreciatively.

Shouto backs up again. “Wait.”

Izuku pouts. He wants to go back to kissing. Kissing is great.

“You said you activate your quirk when you die.” Shouto says slowly.

“Mmhm.” Izuku leans forward again but Shouto backs up another inch. Izuku pouts more insistently.

“Did you mean… that's the only way to activate your quirk?” Shouto reasons out slowly. “Is it a side effect?”

Izuku hums thoughtfully. “Well, more like an inciting incident. It's not permanent obviously…”

Shouto's gaze hardens. “Izuku, how many times have you died?”

Izuku blinks. He thinks about it for a moment. “I dunno? I might be too drugged to count that high, though. Ask me again later.”

Shouto sighs. He leans forward to kiss Izuku gently, but he pulls away too soon. “I'm going to get stronger. So, you don't have to watch me get hurt and you don't have to use that quirk.”

Izuku grins. “And you won't break up with me?”

Shouto flushes. “I-I'm not planning on it.”

Izuku leans forward and waits for Shouto to come back down to him. “Good.”


“Is your hand bothering you?” Shouto wonders.

“No.” Izuku says while repeatedly flexing the fingers of his right hand.

“I said you could have my notes if you wanted. You didn’t need to take your own.”

Izuku swings their arms back and forth, causing Shouto to sigh at him. “I’m fine! Doesn’t even hurt.”

Shouto stares at him, nonplussed. “I don’t trust your pain tolerance.” Shouto shakes his head. “Tomorrow, I’m stealing all your pens.”

Izuku gasps. “No! My All Might Special Edition Classroom Set!”

Shouto is relentless. “And I’ll tell Yaoyorozu not to make you any more.”

“Shouto! Don’t do this to me!” Izuku whines.

“You’re too stubborn.” Shouto says. “You must be stopped.”

Izuku pouts. “Mean.”

Shouto has been very forceful with the caretaking since Izuku was released from the hospital. Izuku has suspicions that he’s in cahoots with Iida and possibly also his mother.

Shouto hesitates at this last comment. He stops halfway up the steps to their dorm. “I’m sorry.”

Izuku melts helplessly. “I-I d-don’t actually think you’re mean. I think you’re taking good care of me…”

Shouto gives him a suspicious look. “Then why are you complaining so much?”

Izuku grins cheekily. “I just like the excuse to talk to you.” He rolls his entire hand about by the wrist, slowly working out the kinks.

Shouto blushes and sighs in exasperation. “... C’mon. We’re taking the elevator up to your room and then you’re dictating all your homework to me.”

“But my room is on the second floor. It's easier to take the stairs.”

“The doctor said you need to take it easy on that ankle.” Shouto returns evenly and starts pulling Izuku up the steps to the entrance.

“The doctor also said exercise is good to keep it flexible.”

“You’ve already been exercising all day.” Shouto says with finality. “Honestly, you should have been in bed instead of coming to class today.”

“But then I wouldn’t get to spend time with you.” Izuku sing songs as they wait for the elevator.

Kaminari, Ashido, and Sero exit the elevator when the doors open. Shouto blushes hotly and ducks his head when he sees them looking.

“You’re too stubborn.” Shouto mutters as he drags Izuku inside.

“What was that?” Izuku leans in close, grinning cheekily as the elevator doors close.

“I said—” Izuku smacks a kiss on the corner of Shouto’s mouth.

Shouto turns even redder and his shoulder starts smoking. “Izuku…”

“If you’re going to be cute, you need to be prepared for the consequences.” Izuku says unrepentantly. He cracks the knuckle of his thumb repeatedly.

Shouto sighs. “Give me your hand.”

“You already have my hand.” Izuku says, but still gives Shouto his free hand.

“Is this better?” Shouto switches Izuku's left hand into his own left hand and wraps icy fingers around Izuku's sore right hand.

“O-oh.” Izuku relaxes.

Shouto shakes his head. “I knew it. You’ve been fiddling with it since second period.”

“S’not so bad.” Izuku smiles dopily.

Shouto sighs. “You should tell me if something is bothering you.”

“I’m fine.”

Shouto sighs in resignation. He looks at Izuku quietly for a moment. “Izuku…”

“Hm?” Izuku starts swinging their clasped hands back and forth. He’s got both of Shouto’s hands now so Shouto is forced to sway with him.

“About what happened in homeroom…” Shouto asks slowly. “A-are you upset?”

Izuku stills and blinks. “What happened in— oh. Right. Mineta.”

Shouto shifts uneasily. “I think… from what Yaoyorozu and Uraraka were saying during lunch I understand now why that word is something to be upset about. They said they were sorry for what he said… but they were focusing on me only because he was talking about me… when he was talking to you, so…” Shouto hunches his shoulders. “I know our friends asked you before, but I wanted to know if you were okay.”

Izuku sighs. Just like the first time around, Mineta disappoints him. Not just on the resets, but every time Mineta has opened his mouth. “Don’t worry about me. It’s not like Mineta is in the majority.” Izuku frowns, thinking about his middle school experiences. He can’t decide if his life would have been better if the rampant discrimination due to his quirkless status was replaced with rampant discrimination due to his sexuality.

Shouto frowns. “Are you being stubborn again?”

Izuku’s mouth twitches into a small smile. “No? Besides, Aizawa-sensei wasn’t around to hear last time I experienced it. I think sending him to the principal was probably the less stressful response in comparison to pelting him with furniture.”

Shouto blinks at him. “What?”

“Uraraka started it.” Izuku shrugs. “It was kind of scary, honestly.”

“Oh.” Shouto shakes his head. “Well, if you say so.” He turns suddenly, blinking at the still-closed elevator doors. “Why are we not there yet?”

Izuku grins. “You forgot to press the button.”

“Oh.” Shouto sighs, tries to move, and sighs again when Izuku refuses to release his hands. “... You’re teasing me.”

Izuku giggles.

“We’re standing in an unmoving elevator, Izuku.” Shouto admonishes him.

“Hm,” Izuku tilts his head faux-thoughtfully. “Seems like a great kissing spot.”

Shouto blushes. “Y-you can’t just wait until we get to your room?”

Izuku grins mischievously. “Why on earth would I do that?”

Shouto bites his lip. “... Too stubborn.” He mutters as he leans in.

The elevator doors open with a ding.

Izuku startles with a screech and Shouto freezes like a chameleon in the sunlight.

“Oh.” A familiar tired drawl says. “This is just great.”

Izuku spins around. “Shinsou!”

Shinsou is standing on the threshold with a cardboard box under one arm and an unimpressed expression on his face. “This is the last thing I need right now.”

Aizawa-sensei rolls his eyes behind him and shoves Shinsou into the elevator. “Problem Child, show the new transfer student to his room. He’s your neighbor now.”

“Huh?” Izuku perks up. “Wait! Shinsou is moving to class 1-A?” He turns to Shinsou and declares delightedly. “That’s great!”

“Is he taking Mineta’s room?” Shouto wonders.

Aizawa-sensei blinks blankly. “Who?”

“Uh…” Izuku wonders if Aizawa-sensei has already forgotten his student’s names. “He’s the one with the purple—”

“I have no students of that description.” Aizawa-sensei snaps. He turns on his heel and walks away.

“Oh,” Shouto says as the elevator doors close. “Well, that solves that problem.”

Izuku turns to Shinsou. “And you’re in the hero class now! I’m so happy.”

Shinsou stares back at him with a nonplussed expression. “Is he always like this?” He addresses Shouto without looking at him. “I thought he just got out of the hospital after breaking most of his bones.”

“Yes.” Shouto confirms.

Shinsou sighs.

“Do you wanna train with me?” Izuku asks. “I know you wanna improve and I can help! I work out every morning after a run and—”

“And you won’t be doing that for at least another week.” Shouto finishes for him.

Izuku pouts.

“Doctor’s orders.”

Izuku perks right up again. “Well, I’ve been thinking since I could write again and I’ve got some notes you can—”

Shinsou sighs explosively. “Is someone going to press the damn elevator button? I'm starting to feel claustrophobic.”

“Oh.” Shouto sighs. “Press two, please. Izuku won’t let me go.”

Shinsou gives them a mildly concerned look and presses the button. The elevator finally starts moving.

“Anyway,” Izuku continues. “I’ve got loads of ideas on how to use your quirk! I was wondering, do you need someone to actually say a word in order to activate it, or does any sound work? Does it have to be a word in a language you understand? What’s the range at which you can activate it? How many people can you—”

The elevator doors slide open.

“Welp, that’s my stop.” Shinsou immediately shuffles out. “Gotta go.”

Izuku and Shouto follow him out.

“Oh! By the way, you’re next to me now!” Izuku says brightly. “So, I can help you whenever you want!”

Shinsou slumps. “Oh no.”

“You're first door on the right.” Shouto tells him helpfully.

“I'm the second one!” Izuku exclaims delightedly.

“Great.” Shinsou says with a complete lack of enthusiasm.

Izuku drags Shouto after him as he follows Shinsou into his new room. He notes that any sign of Mineta seems to have disappeared. The walls are blank and the bland school-issue furniture has been stripped of any adornment.

Shinsou sets down his lone box in the middle of the empty room. “Can you not?”

“Do you need help?” Izuku asks. “You've got more stuff than this, right?”

Shinsou glares at him as he opens the box and pulls out a litter box, a blanket covered in shed fur, and various tinkly toys.

“Oh my god.” Izuku whispers in falsetto.

“You should probably clean this room before you move in.” Shouto says while frowning at the school-provided bed.

“Shouto,” Izuku continues in his falsetto whisper. “He's got a kitty.”

Shouto suddenly snaps to attention. “Where.”

Shinsou sighs as he carefully arranges the small blanket at the foot of the bed. “My cat is about as willing to meet you as I am, so don't get any ideas.”

Izuku hops on the balls of his feet.

Shouto stares meaningfully at Shinsou, not even blinking.

“My cat is still cranky from the last move.” Shinsou tries to convince them.

“You owe us.” Shouto declares flatly.

Shinsou rolls his eyes. “Fine. Prepare to get your feelings hurt when she scratches you.”

Izuku makes an excited squealing noise as Shouto drags him out of the room after Shinsou. He's neighbors with a kitty!

“Best neighbor ever.” Izuku whispers to Shouto as they all file back into the elevator.

Shouto nods back in agreement.

Shinsou sighs explosively the second the elevator doors close again. “Listen. I’m grateful and all you helped me out, but I’m not here to sing your praises. We’re even as far as I see it. I’m going to be a hero and that’s it. I don’t care what you have to say about it.”

Izuku and Shouto blink patiently as Shinsou finishes off his little speech with a meaningful glare.

Shinsou scowls and looks at the wall after a moment of silence. “So, thanks, or whatever.”

Izuku looks nervously at Shouto, who shrugs at him. Izuku moves to scratch at his head with his free hand, but his shoulder hurts too much from his healing injuries so he drops it.

“So…” Izuku drawls. “I’ve got all the recordings and notes from the hero lessons with All Might we’ve had if you wanna see them.”

Shinsou turns back around. “Why do you want to help me so much? What do you want?”

“He’s just like that.” Shouto says.

“A friend?” Izuku answers hopefully.

Shinsou slumps. “I’m not here to make friends.” He grumbles.

Izuku grins. He knows defeat when he sees it. “Too bad!” He says brightly.

“Look at it this way,” Shouto comforts blandly. “He hasn’t even broken any of your bones, just his own this time.”

Izuku gasps. “When did I break your bones?”

“Hairline fracture.” Shouto says. “Just a couple of ribs.”

Izuku gasps louder. “I’m so sorry.”

Shouto shrugs.

Shinsou shakes his head at them and makes the most rapid escape he can once the elevator doors open, stopping only just short of sprinting.

Izuku follows him at a jog, nearly pulling Shouto off his feet with the way he’s awkwardly holding his right arm across his body in order to cool his fingers.

“So, about this kitty—” Izuku begins.

Shinsou groans and immediately slows down to a crawl, apparently not motivated nearly enough to escape the likes of Midoriya Izuku.

“Is it like an adult kitty or a kitten?” Izuku asks.

Shouto looks up sharply. “There’s a kitten?”

“Maybe?” Izuku wonders. “That would be super cute if it was a kitten. They’re so small.”

“... I want a kitten.” Shouto declares.

Shinsou stops and throws his hands up. “It’s a full grown, very angry cat. And she’s going to hate you both. But you do you, I guess.”

“I don’t care.” Izuku says. “I already love her.”

Shouto blinks, nonplussed. “All cats love me.”

Shinsou sighs at them and shoves his shoes on with jerky motions.

“It’s the heat.” Shouto explains as they follow Shinsou outside.

Aizawa-sensei’s car is parked right at the bottom of the steps to the dorm, completely ignoring any rules of the road… or sidewalk. The trunk is wide open, displaying a cache of cardboard boxes. There’s a large cat carrier set out on the steps and a small figure with… green bunny ears… sat beside it, kicking their red sneakers back and forth.

Izuku squints as Shouto drags him down the stairs. He can’t be sure but that looks like—

“Is that my hero costume?” Izuku blurts out. Now that he’s closer, he can make out the distinctive shoulder pads, utility belt, and face mask of his own costume, each made out of felt to provide a soft outfit for casual wear. It’s his hero costume in hoodie form.

Shinsou sighs as the small figure looks up at his voice.

The little girl gasps. “Deku!”

“Oh.” Izuku stops on the steps as the little girl comes scrambling up to him, feet slapping the ground in slightly too-large shoes.

It’s Shinsou’s little sister. She’s got the hood up to cover her bald head, and the green ears flop around her bright little face.

“Uh,” Izuku says right before she crashes into his knees.

Izuku stumbles, blinks, and slaps on the hero smile. “Uh, hi…” He looks hopefully at Shinsou.

“Hibari.” Shinsou rolls his eyes at him.

“Hibari!” Izuku says brightly. He kneels down to her level. “Where’d you get that awesome hoodie?”

Hibari giggles. The hoodie has a felt flap made to look like his face mask, which she pulls up to cover her smile. “My brother made it for me…”

“Wow, that’s really cool!” Izuku says honestly. He looks up at Shinsou with stars in his eyes. “You can sew?”

Shinsou says, “Tch,” and looks away from him.

Hibari tugs on his elbow. “Um, um, Deku, I made something for you…”

Izuku smiles, a little embarrassed. “Oh, uh, really? That’s really nice of you...”

Hibari pulls a little package out of her hoodie pocket and holds it out to him, staring up at him with big lilac eyes. “My brother said you got hurt, so these will help you feel better! He helped me make them!”

“Thank you.” Izuku takes the tiny decorative box and pops the lid to find a bunch of tiny chocolates molded into the rough shape of the UA logo with a few bunnies sprinkled in.

Izuku is delighted. “Wow! These look really yummy!”

Hibari puffs up like a proud little dove. “I picked out the molds!”

Izuku smiles. He plops down to sit on the steps and holds out the box. “Wanna share?”

Hibari’s eyes go huge before she literally launches herself into his lap. “Okay!”

Izuku grunts and winces as he puts weight on his arm while adjusting for her weight. Hibari shuffles around until she’s settled leaning against his chest and she can kick her feet in the open air, apparently completely oblivious to how sharp her little elbows and knees are.

“My brother says he’s gonna live here now.” Hibari tells him as she digs her whole hand into the box of chocolates. “Someday, I’m gonna live here, too.”

Izuku smiles. “Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Hibari nods decisively and turns around to fix him with the fiercest look Izuku’s ever seen on a five year old. “I’m gonna be a hero, just like you.”

Izuku’s smile widens out into a grin. “You know what? I bet you’ll be even better than me.”

Hibari scrunches up her nose and shoves a chocolate into her mouth. “I don’t think so…”

“No?” Izuku feigns incredulity. “But you punched that villain! You’re already so strong!”

Hibari’s eyes slowly light up. “I did…”

“I can’t even imagine how much stronger you’ll be when you’re my age!” Izuku declares. “I’m getting chills just thinking about it.”

Izuku flinches as Hibari sniffles once, and then wraps her arms so tightly around his neck he’s afraid he’s about to be choked.

“Oh, uh,” Izuku gently hugs her back. “There, there.”

He looks up to spot Shinsou watching him, who suddenly jerks his eyes away before their gazes can meet. Looking down, he finds Shouto has abandoned him to lie belly down in front of the cat carrier. He’s got the roundest Russian Blue he’s ever seen sitting on his outstretched arm, and looks mighty pleased about it.

Hibari squeezes him before pulling back and hopping free of his lap. “I’m gonna be a hero!” She yells at the empty sidewalk. She does a high kick and a one-two punch, punctuating each with a ferocious scream.

“Whoa!” Izuku cheers. “The villains won’t know what hit ‘em!”

“Me!” Hibari declares. “I’m gonna hit ‘em!”

Izuku giggles and Hibari breaks down and copies him, dissolving into bubbly little hiccups.

When Izuku looks again, Shinsou is watching his little sister with the only smile he’s ever seen on his face.

Izuku’s made a lot of mistakes, he decides, but some of them are really hard to regret.


The common room is a riot of noise that evening.

“I can’t believe you’ve never had popcorn.” Izuku says for the third time. “This is a travesty.”

“... It’s good.” Shouto agrees with his usual impassive level of enthusiasm.

Izuku turns around and asks Shinsou, who is scowling with his arms crossed on the couch beside him. “Have you ever had popcorn before?”

“Stop talking to me.” Shinsou says grumpily, but otherwise doesn’t move. “Why are you still talking to me.”

“This is your welcome party, though!” Izuku returns brightly.

Shinsou glares at Ashido, Kaminari, and Sero, who are screaming while playing the floor is made of lava with the other two couches in the room, and trampling the rest of their classmates in the process. Long story short, they’re not the only people screaming.

“... I’m starting to think you might be the sanest person in your class.” Shinsou says.

“Aw, thanks.”

“... Not a compliment.” Shinsou grumbles.

“Hey, Shinsou!” Uraraka calls brightly as she runs up. “We’re about to start karaoke!”

“Oh, god, no.” Shinsou says.

“As the guest of honor, you get the first song!” Uraraka grabs him by the elbows and starts pulling him up off the couch.

“Nope. Nope.” Shinsou says flatly even as he starts floating, his arms still stubbornly crossed. “This is the worst.”

Izuku decides to leave that alone and turns back to Shouto. “What other foods haven’t you eaten?” He wonders.

Shouto pops another kernel in his mouth and considers. “... How would I know what I haven’t eaten if I haven’t eaten it?”

“I don’t want you to miss out!” Izuku says. “Food is, like, one of the best things about being alive!”

Shouto frowns at this and considers. “... I thought that was you.”

Izuku blushes and splutters, taken off guard. “O-oh! Y-you got me…”

Shouto smirks.

“Can you fuckers stop being gross for five fucking minutes?”

Izuku stiffens and looks up.

Bakugou is standing an unusually respectful three feet away, his shoulders up and his hands in his pockets. He seems incapable of looking at them directly, his eyes trained on a point over Izuku’s shoulder.

“No.” Shouto says.

Izuku nudges him.

“Sorry, Kacchan! Is there something you wanted?”

“Tch,” Bakugou says. “Why do you think you have something I want, huh?”

Izuku blinks rapidly. He sorely wants to point out that Bakugou is the one that came to them.

“Clearly, you want the attention.” Shouto says.

Izuku nudges him again. The last thing they need is a fight to break out.

“FUCK OFF, HALF’N’HALF!” Bakugou yells.

“Kacchan—” Izuku begins, barely managing to keep his voice from cracking.

“Fuck,” Bakugou says meaningfully. “Just— come outside, would you?”

“No.” Shouto answers for him.

“Shouto,” Izuku murmurs with exasperation. He addresses Bakugou, “Um, why?”

“I JUST WANNA FUCKING TALK.” Bakugou says in typical Bakugou fashion. He abruptly scoffs and stomps away.

Izuku frowns.

“Oh, good, he left on his own.” Shouto comments.

Izuku frowns at Shouto.

“Popcorn?” Shouto holds up his bowl, completely unrepentant.

Izuku sighs. “I should see what he wants.”

Shouto scowls. “If he can’t be polite about it he doesn’t deserve the courtesy.”

“Hm,” Izuku hums, faintly amused. “I know I said the petty was cute, but you’re laying it on a bit thick, hon.”

Shouto huffs. “You’re too forgiving.”

“I haven’t forgiven anything.” Izuku stands up. He brushes his knuckles over Shouto’s cheek when the boy moves to follow him. “Stay here, please. I’ll handle this. Whatever this is.”

Shouto subsides with a scowl and a blush. “... If he starts a fight, you need to go easy on your arms. You’re still healing.”

“There won’t be any fighting.” Izuku says, but internally he worries.

“If you don’t want any fighting, then don’t go outside.” Shouto grumbles impishly.

Izuku sighs and decides to ignore that. He follows in the direction Bakugou stomped off and finds Bakugou loitering outside under a streetlight.

“Um—” Izuku begins shlyly.

Bakugou spins around. “So, you don’t trust me or some shit? Hah!”

Izuku blinks. “Uh,”

Bakugou gnashes his teeth. “You think you’re hot stuff, huh? Fuckin’ Deku?” He clenches his fists at his sides, shoulders tense. “I’m not good enough for your little fuckin’ heroic power trip?”

Izuku tilts his head inquisitively. “Are you… mad about the Shinsou thing?”

“I’m not FUCKIN’ MAD!” Bakugou bellows.

“... ‘Kay.” Izuku agrees faintly.

“Tch.” Bakugou turns away to scuff at the ground.

Izuku frowns and takes a minute to dissect Bakugou’s words. He’s known him for more than a decade, and this boy still can’t say anything directly. “Um, I’m sorry I had Shinsou brainwash you? I know from experience it’s not super comfortable…”

“FUCK.” Bakugou suddenly yells, causing Izuku to jump. Bakugou turns back to him. “I don’t fucking care about that! You’re the one that wanted that!”

Izuku blinks. Bakugou’s incredibly self-centered logic always leaves Izuku feeling like a tied knot. “... Yes?”

“Would you fucking—” Bakugou hisses in frustration. “Do you fucking trust me or not?”

Izuku tilts his head, honestly confused. “Uh, no? Of course not?” He laughs a little, voice high with nerves. “Do you really think after everything— I know you too well, Kacchan.”

Rather than answer, Bakugou turns around and screams at the sky.

Izuku is startled. He starts wringing his hands. “Uh—”

Bakugou turns on him. “Fuck you!”

“... ‘Kay.” Izuku agrees tremulously.

Bakugou’s eyes burn. “Why is it you? I’m supposed to be the best. Me. I’m not supposed to be playing fucking catch-up to fucking Deku.”

“Uh—” Izuku shifts. “I don’t know what you—”

“ALL MIGHT CHOSE YOU!” Bakugou screeches.

Izuku leans back, wincing at the flying spittle.

“Why—” Bakugou chokes, palms sparking. “Why you?”

Izuku turns his gaze away. He can’t talk about All Might when the last time he saw him he stood vulnerable and spent in the middle of Izuku’s mess.

“And you,” Bakugou continues, wild and irate. “Think I’m not good enough for your little band of dipshits? What the fuck!”

Izuku sighs. “You know why I couldn’t bring you to rescue Shinsou’s sister.”

“Fuck you!”

Izuku sighs with more feeling. “Kacchan, next time I need a mindless brawler, I’ll be sure to invite you, ‘kay?”

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?”

Izuku winces and shakes his head at himself. Being flippant with Bakugou has never been smart. “It means, um, I needed people I could rely on in a, um, delicate situation.”

“SO, I’M NOT FUCKING SMART ENOUGH FOR YOU OR SOMETHING?”

Izuku frowns and looks Bakugou in the eyes. “I don’t think you’re stupid. I just think you’re unreasonable.”

“FUCK YOU.”

Izuku sighs. He’s getting tired of this. “Fine. Let me put it this way: I care more about the safety of my friends and teammates than I do about your feelings. So, the next time I need to do something crazy dangerous— you’re right. I won’t be inviting you. Because you’re a liability, Kacchan.”

Bakugou scowls and looks away, shoulders hitched all the way up.

Izuku shakes his head. “Honestly, I don’t understand why this surprises you. Or even why you care… You’ve made it pretty clear to me that you don’t want anything to do with me.”

“Fuck.” Bakugou says again, but quieter.

Izuku pauses to shift uneasily on his feet. He doesn’t know why Bakugou even wanted to discuss this, or how this ‘conversation’ should be resolved. “For what it’s worth, I think you’ll be a fine hero.” Izuku shrugs. “If all you do is fight villains in the street, I mean. You’ll be good at that.”

“Fuck off.” Bakugou spits at him and suddenly barrels past him, knocking Izuku aside with his shoulder.

Izuku turns and watches him go. “... ‘Kay?”

Izuku stands there under the streetlight for another minute, trying to suss out what even happened. Is Bakugou… upset that Izuku hadn’t included him? He’s spent years making it clear he doesn’t want anything to do with Izuku, so Izuku can’t be blamed for feeling a bit of whiplash.

He’d think Bakugou is hungry for glory, but that event ended in anything but...

When Izuku takes a few steps back towards the dorm, he pauses next to a bush with an unusual spot of red and white hair hiding among the leaves.

Izuku smiles. “Hey, hon.”

Shouto pokes his head out of the bush. He’s got a leaf stuck in his hair and it sticks straight out from his head like an extra ear.

“Were you spying on me?”

Shouto shrugs and pops another handful of popcorn into his mouth, completely unrepentant.

Izuku plucks that errant leaf off Shouto’s head. “You don’t need to protect me from Kacchan, you know.”

Shouto stands the rest of the way up and grabs his hand with the one not holding the popcorn bowl. “You seemed to handle him fine on your own.”

Izuku freezes, for a moment it feels as if the world has tipped sideways. “I… did. Do that.”

Shouto smirks. “I liked the part where you told him you didn’t care about his feelings.”

Izuku huffs a stilted laugh. “You would. Um.” He tugs on his hair as he readjusts his world view. “Wh-when was the last time I was scared of Kacchan?”

Shouto blinks at him uncomprehendingly.

Izuku swallows as he reevaluates all his recent interactions with Bakugou. “Am I… not scared of Kacchan?”

Shouto tilts his head. “I have always thought you were just too tolerant of him.”

Izuku shakes his head. “It’s not like Kacchan has really changed. He just—” Izuku frowns. The only reason Bakugou hasn’t been bullying anyone is because no one at UA— staff and students included— would let him. He certainly tried right in the beginning…

Izuku startles with a gasp. “I’m not scared of Kacchan!”

Shouto tilts his head the other way, watching him patiently.

Has Izuku changed that much? Has he come that far? Izuku turns and stares at Shouto. Or… has his world simply changed?

“It’s funny.” Izuku says quietly. “I didn’t even notice.”

Shouto gives him a tiny frown. “Notice what?”

“I have friends now.” Izuku says and squeezes Shouto’s hand. “And a boyfriend. And teachers who actually care about my wellbeing. All of that makes such a huge difference…”

Shouto squeezes his hand back and ducks his head.

Izuku thinks back to all those years he spent trying to reason with Bakugou. Or the darker times when he considered changing himself just to make all the pain go away…

Izuku smiles. “I’m really happy here, you know? Kacchan doesn’t even matter.”

Shouto makes a small scoffing sound. “Well, of course he doesn’t.”

Izuku grins and turns on him. “You make me happy, you know? And Uraraka and Iida and All Might…” Izuku trails off. “I hadn’t ever thought it could be so easy to be happy… but in the end I didn’t even notice.”

Shouto is still staring at the ground. He kicks the curb. “... Me too.”

Izuku beams. He leans up and kisses Shouto on the cheek.

His boyfriend blushes bright red and hunches his left shoulder away from him as he starts to smoke, hiding his cheek from further attack.

Izuku gazes at him fondly. All of this merely steels his resolve— he’s going to get over this trauma issue. He’s going to get stronger so he doesn’t have to die to win. And above all, he’s going to be happy.

This same time last year he couldn’t have hoped for any of that.


Izuku’s leg won’t stop jittering.

The sun is setting at just the right angle that it casts sharp orange rectangles on the floor of the train car. They flash over the toes of Izuku’s sneakers— light, dark, light, dark— like a metronome meant to blind.

“Izuku,” his mother pets the back of his head, rearranging his curls with gentle adoration.

Izuku grimaces as he pulls harshly on his lower lip, twisting the delicate skin—

“Izuku,” his mother puts a hand on his knee, forcing him to still.

Izuku goes from nervous to angry so quickly he bewilders even himself. “Would you stop touching me!”

His mother retracts her hand at his snap. Her eyebrows lower.

Izuku is suddenly and viscerally ashamed. “I’m sorry, Mom. I just…” He clasps his hands together and hides them between his knees, folding himself over his lap in a tight little bundle.

His mother sighs. “Oh, honey, I should be the one to be sorry. I didn’t even realize you were having so much trouble.”

“I’m fine. I mean—” Izuku grits his teeth. “It’s fine.” He still doesn’t like admitting he needs help. It feels like failing.

“I should have, though.” Inko says. “You barely talked to me all summer and you were always in your room lifting those weights.”

“I talked to you. And that’s not any different from before.” Izuku grimaces and wishes Shouto was with him so he could hold his hand.

His mother sighs. She sits up straighter, tucking one lock of green hair behind her ear. “You know, Izuku, I’m really proud of you, right? You’ve come so far and I know now you’re going to do everything you set your mind to.” Inko bites her lip. “But I just want you to tell me if there’s anything I can do to help, okay? I’m your mother. I’ll do everything in my power to help you be happy and healthy.”

Izuku chews pensively at his lip. His gut reaction is to respond that he’s got everything handled on his own— he didn’t spend years hiding Bakugou’s bullying just to start worrying his mother now. But, well, he’s convinced by now that he definitely doesn’t have everything handled.

His mother continues after patiently waiting out his silence. “For the record, I’m glad you’ve decided to go to therapy, honey. I think it will be good for you.”

Izuku nods sharply, eyes still trained on the ground.

“I love you, Izuku.”

Izuku flushes and casts an embarrassed glance over the rest of the train car. He’s thankfully plain enough that people don’t usually recognize him in civilian wear, but ever since the very public fight with All For One random people have taken to staring at his green hair.

Thankfully, no one is looking their way.

“... Love you, too, Mom.” Izuku mumbles.

Izuku can’t help but to continue being conflicted over the prospect of going to therapy. On the one hand, all the adults he looks up to encourage it— Aizawa-sensei and All Might in particular— but on the other… Izuku can’t help to feel like he doesn’t need it.

Logically, he knows he’s a mess. The morning after returning to the dorms, Izuku woke up punching the wall so hard he could see Shinsou glaring at him through the new hole.

But… therapy means talking about his problems. And— worse— it means talking to a stranger about his problems. Izuku is barely used to having friends who don’t abuse him. He is, however, well-used to keeping all his problems to himself.

Isn’t it better to just leave the past in the past? At this point, the clincher is that he can finally accept that Izuku himself is absolutely bungling it. Better to bow to someone else’s expertise… that doesn’t exactly endear him to the idea, though. Especially when his anxious brain keeps providing him increasingly unlikely nightmare scenarios.

When they get off the train, he follows his Mom all the way to the therapist’s office, getting increasingly fidgety and eyeing every door and window along the street like villains will pop out into the open at any moment.

The therapist’s office is in downtown Tokyo on the third floor of a hyper modern skyscraper that’s all reflective metal and marble floors. There’s a floor guide taking up ten feet of one wall of the elevator with a different MD on every floor. Izuku reads out ‘Dr. Chikai, MD Psychology’ for their floor and breaks out in a cold sweat.

He’s only knocked out of his anxiety spiral by the fact that All Might stands up from one of the couches when they enter the lobby.

“Ah, good, I was afraid I’d miss you.” All Might smiles sheepishly. The usual hunch of his shrunken form is more pronounced by having one arm in a sling.

“A-a-all Might!” Izuku stutters. For a bewildering moment of crippling social anxiety, he seriously considers leaping out the closest window.

All Might shares a little nod with his mother before kneeling down in front of Izuku. “I meant to talk to you before, but I’ve been a bit busy lately.”

Izuku stares at his feet.

All Might sighs at his bowed head. “I’m afraid I’ve been too harsh on you, my boy. Every day, it seems, you exceed my expectations in a spectacular way, but still I push you for more. Don’t get me wrong— I’m proud of you.”

All Might squeezes his shoulder with his good hand when Izuku shifts nervously.

“But I do care about you, and you— well, this whole situation scares me more every day. I’m glad you finally made the decision to come here. I was about your age when I started my sessions with Dr. Chikai—”

Izuku full-body startles so hard he would jump right out of his shoes if he were a cartoon. “Y-y-y-All Might goes to therapy?”

All Might grins sheepishly when Izuku stares at him. “Well, let’s say I didn’t take the death of my mentor that well. And… I’ve decided to restart my therapy recently.”

Izuku feels a flash of irritation. “Why didn’t you just say that earlier if you wanted me to go to therapy so much?” He subsides into mumbles, quickly losing steam in favor of feeling embarrassed. That’s both a little too revealing to say outloud and a little too rude to admit. “Honestly, if you want me to do something… I’d do pretty much anything if you did it first… jeez…”

“Heh…” All Might scratches at his head. “Well, I figured you’d make the decision on your own.” All Might subsides into his own mutter. “And it’s a toss up whether you listen to authority on anything, so it’s better to just give you the facts and let you figure it out.”

“What?” Izuku frowns. He listens to All Might a lot! It’s not his fault a lot of his advice is really confusing.

All Might smiles widely. “Anyway, I didn’t just come here to babble— I came here to talk to you about the future!”

Izuku blinks, looks at All Might’s cast, and abruptly turns his head to stare at the floor. “... ‘Kay.”

“Ah, don’t give me that morose reaction, Young Midoriya! The future is brighter than that!”

Izuku shifts, fingers moving to pull at the skin of his cuticles. All Might is always talking about the heights Izuku can climb to— the kind of hero he’ll be in the future— but there’s something viscerally unsatisfying about that kind of talk now that All Might can’t be a hero anymore. Especially since the fault in that lies with Izuku himself.

Izuku stiffens as All Might sighs and leans forward to wrap Izuku up in his good arm.

“I really have been too hard on you.” All Might says into his ear. “There’s a silver lining here, though,” he rubs a circle into Izuku’s back. “I can focus now on raising you. From now on, I’m going to be here for you as I should have been from the beginning.”

Izuku feels a little distant as he wraps his arms around All Might’s shoulders and hugs him back. If this had happened a couple months ago before all this shit he would have been crying, wouldn’t he?

For some reason all he can feel is the impending doom of another shoe about to drop— but it’s not as if there’s anything particularly ominous about the situation. That’s just how he feels all the time lately.

After a moment, All Might pulls back and grins. “And another silver lining, you’re finally growing out of that crybaby phase!”

This is, of course, the moment Izuku starts crying.

“Ah— w-wait— I didn’t—” All Might flounders.

In great, embarrassing, heaping gasps Izuku cries so hard his vision instantly blurs.

All Might is at a loss at this point, so it’s his mom who steps in and hugs him close, petting his hair until he calms down.

‘Calm down’ in this context means merely, ‘socially acceptable,’ of course. In reality, Izuku finally walks into his therapy session five minutes late in a fog of misery. He’s barely capable of navigating his surroundings and awkwardly clips his shoulder on the way through the door.

He sits down on the first couch he encounters and finally looks at his would-be therapist, who he catches in the motion of retracting her hand for a rejected handshake.

“Sorry,” Izuku says belatedly, blinking.

The woman raises her eyebrows but still smiles disarmingly. “Hello, I’m Dr. Chikai.”

“I know.” Izuku responds immediately, before correcting himself in an ashamed mumble. “I mean— I’m Izuku. Midoriya. Midoriya Izuku. I’m your patient thing.” He’s maybe not entirely socially acceptable. Can therapists refuse you treatment for being rude?

“Patient thing.” Dr. Chikai responds, mildly amused. “Nice to meet you, patient thing.”

Izuku flushes and clasps his hands in his lap so he can twist his fingers painfully. “N-nice to meet you.”

Everything about the doctor seems mild and middle-of-the road. She’s got shoulder-length brown hair, and a soft-looking sweater on, and an office done entirely in gentle blues and tans.

Izuku abruptly changes that assessment when he finally meets her gaze and realizes she’s got striking orange eyes.

“Hello,” Dr. Chikai says. It’s taken him a couple minutes to muster the courage to look at her. She seems to have spent this time patiently with her legs crossed, notepad in her lap.

“... Hi,” Izuku responds shyly. He has no idea what he is supposed to do and he’s quite sure he’s messing it all up.

“Do you know why you’re here, Mr. Midoriya?” The doctor asks him.

“Yeah,” Izuku says and stops. He flushes as the doctor continues looking at him. “Am I supposed to elaborate? ‘Cuz if I start I’m gonna talk for awhile and I dunno if you wanna sit through that.”

Dr. Chikai smiles. “Listening is at least half of my job, after all.”

“R-right.” Izuku blinks, and stares back at her, and realizes he neither knows how to explain anything or even how to muster the will to try.

After another minute the doctor changes tacks. “How about I talk about me for a bit and we take turns?”

“‘Kay.” Izuku agrees in a croak.

“My name is Dr. Naomi Chikai,” the doctor begins. “My father is a dentist and my mother is from America. She was a psychologist as well and is who inspired me to be who I am today. My father is always saying the Chikai family is strongest in mind and teeth.” Here she grins, showing off a shiny smile of very straight teeth.

“O-oh,” Izuku says, a little too high-strung to be amused.

“My quirk is called Oathbreaker.” Dr. Chikai continues. “It allows me to make any promise a binding contract.” The doctor tips her head knowingly. “Really, this is why I am the one entrusted with the care of people like All Might and yourself. I won’t be revealing the names of any of my other patients for obvious reasons, but you should know you’re safe to speak freely here. I promise.”

Dr. Chikai’s orange eyes flash when she says these last words. Izuku imagines them like brake lights, jerking the world to a stop for one single moment with a gentle tap.

“Oh— that’s really cool!” Izuku brightens. “But why is it called Oathbreaker if it’s about keeping promises?”

Dr. Chikai smiles. “Ah, open right up when it’s about quirks, then?”

Izuku flushes and fiddles with his hands in his lap.

“To be more specific,” the doctor continues. “My quirk is about what happens to those who break the promises bound with my quirk.” Dr. Chikai grins.

“Oh!” Izuku feels energized and bright for a moment. “That’s a really strong quirk!”

“It’s helped a lot of people throughout the years.” Dr. Chikai agrees. “My question is: how can I help you, Mr. Midoriya?”

Izuku deflates and twists his fingers in his lap.

Dr. Chikai doesn’t play the waiting game with him this time, she moves right on to a different topic. “But this is just our first session. Why don’t we talk about something you want to talk about? What’s made you happy recently? Even just a little thing— or a person?”

Izuku’s thoughts move instantly to Shouto on reflex. “My boyfriend—” he begins and stops to blush. He’s not used to babbling about his boyfriend. “Um, I mean— Shouto— he’s got a really cool quirk. It’s called Half-Hot, Half-Cold, which is, um, kinda the worst name possible, I think. First of all, what it really means is he can literally create an inferno with one half of his body and an iceberg with the other half. Like, Half-Hot, Half-Cold is not descriptive enough. They could have gotten away with naming it Natural Disaster, I mean, jeez. He’s so cool, though. I mean, he seems aloof a lot of the time, because he’s kind of awkward and has a delayed reaction to, like, every social interaction, because he’s just like that and it’s cute, but he’s not actually aloof. He’s kind of a sweetheart and sometimes he’ll ask me, like, three hours later what a conversation he overheard in the common room meant and honestly, that’s adorable. Endeavor did such a good job isolating him, but he’s trying so hard to learn I can’t help but just—” Izuku cuts off suddenly.

“Um,” he looks warily at Dr. Chikai. “Forget that stuff I said about Endeavor.”

“Okay,” Dr. Chikai agrees smoothly. She writes something on her clipboard.

Izuku shifts nervously. Shouto hasn’t exactly been keeping the Endeavor situation a secret. Especially considering he literally pulled Izuku aside before they even knew each other and spilled it all out without a care in the world— but Izuku doesn’t know what is and is not okay to say. He should probably ask Shouto first before he says anything more.

Izuku fiddles with this hands. He also can’t help but notice he’s become completely distracted from the original topic. “I hurt him once.” Izuku says hollowly. He takes one of his wrists in hand and twists it to demonstrate. “He woke me up and I hurt him because I— I don’t think I even knew where I was. He doesn’t remember, but…” Izuku lowers his hands.

Dr. Chikai waits patiently for him.

“When I’m angry or scared it’s like I go blind.” Izuku continues. “And when I’m really scared I just get angry instead. But when I’m angry I— I want to hit things. Even when it wouldn’t help. I never used to be like that.” Izuku twists his hands together until his fingers hurt with the strain. “Anyway, that’s why I’m here. To answer your question. I’m a different person than I used to be, and I don’t like that person, so.”

“It seems like Shouto likes you.” Dr. Chikai notes smartly.

Izuku flushes. He rubs nervously at his thighs. “... Shou is a sweetheart. Like I said.”

Dr. Chikai makes a note on her notepad. “I point that out, because though I’ve known you for a very small amount of time, I can guess that you are more motivated by the affect you have on the people around you than the affect you have on yourself.”

Izuku swallows. “What do you mean?”

Dr. Chikai looks at him. “It’s not a bad thing, per se, when balanced with a little bit of self-love.”

The doctor then follows this up with, “Do you like yourself, Mr. Midoriya?”

Which is completely unfair and uncalled for. And, in Izuku's opinion, a stupid question on top of everything else.

“I like myself fine.” Izuku says, but it comes out like a snap and Izuku knows he's been had by the way Dr. Chikai tilts her head.

Izuku flounders. “That's not what matters anyway. I'm here for— for, um, anger management and stuff. And the nightmares. That stuff.”

The doctor is undeterred despite having a juicy word like ‘nightmares’ dropped under her nose. “What do you like fine about yourself?”

“It's not like I— that’s not new. I just!” Izuku explodes. “I know it's a problem. I'm working on it, and you know what, I'm doing a lot better since I have friends now, and a quirk, so I'm not useless! What I can't handle right now is the fact that half my quirk is fucking death related, so your job is problem number one hundred. I'll deal with the other ninety nine on my own just like always!”

Dr. Chikai looks calmly back at him. “Okay, we don't have to talk about this now.”

Izuku slowly sits back down on the couch, realizing belatedly that he hopped up in his anger. He hangs his head in shame. “S-sorry. I shouldn't have yelled.”

“I accept your apology.”

Izuku drops his head into his hands and tugs on his hair. His emotions are a melting pot of anguish but right on top is a swirl of frustration. “You're not going to let this be easy.” Izuku mutters, irked at the realization.

“It's not really in the job description, I'm afraid.” Dr. Chikai comments. “But I don't think it'd be worth doing if it were easy.”

Izuku sits up and slumps against the back of the couch. “Right. Fine.” He starts jittering his leg. He licks his lips nervously. “I'm gonna talk about my quirk now, 'cuz talking about Kacchan feels worse at the moment.”

Dr. Chikai makes a note.

“Wait!” Izuku makes a frustrated noise. “Forget about Kacchan!”

“Okay.”

Izuku covers his face with both hands. “I'm a mess.” He despairs.

Dr. Chikai waits patiently for him. She's watching him when Izuku peeks through his fingers.

“This is really gonna help, right?” Izuku asks tremulously.

Dr. Chikai smiles gently. “I promise to help you to the best of my abilities, or I'll quit psychology forever.” Her eyes flash.

Izuku drops his hands. “Okay.” He sighs through the feeling of defeat. “Let's do this.”