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to children ardent for some desperate glory

Chapter Text

 

I want to believe that there's more.

That we could be more.

Hell, we could be heroes.

 

Midoriya Izuku wants to be a hero. Anyone can tell you that. It's all he ever talks about.

 

You're quirkless.

 

Midoriya Izuku wants to be a hero. He keeps countless journals on heroes, writing down their quirks and the specifics of it. It has always been a belief of Kacchan's that heroes with more powerful quirks are more likely to be successful. Which is, Izuku has to admit, true. But he knows a lot of heroes who has saved countless people with a quirk that isn't quite flashy nor suited for hero work. He has seen lesser known heroes, has even searched up on the dark web info on underground heroes whose quirk makes them practically quirkless in combat.

 

I'm so sorry, Izuku.

 

Why? Why are you sorry? You didn't do anything wrong. It's not your fault. Why are you crying? Stop.

 

I'm so sorry.

 

Midoriya Izuku wants to be a hero. Even when his doctor looks at him with pity. Even when his mom cries, blaming herself. Even when she doesn't think to encourage, doesn't tell him he can become a hero. Even when Kacchan knocks his hand away and screams at him, even when the ridicules and insults bury themselves deep under his skin and make a home for themselves. Even when his very own father turned his back on him and left them all alone. Even when the whole fucking world has given up on him.

 

Midoriya Izuku wants to be a hero.

 


 

 

Izuku's short legs don't carry him fast enough as he dashes down the streets, on the verge of being late for school. It's not that he had woken up late—no, he got up at the exact same time he always did, got dressed in record time, ate breakfast leisurely with his mom, and left home on time sharp. Earlier, he had passed a kid who dropped her pocket money she was going to save up down the drains on the streets, so Izuku managers to pull the gratings out and climbed in to grab the soaked piece of paper for her. So now he's running to school late with his shoes soaked in dirty water.

 

He slows down at the crossing, a junction with three roads that usually is more crowded later on in the evening when everyone is going out for the Friday night. An old lady pushes her cart of takoyaki, though it seems to be stuck, unable to get out of the crossing and up onto the pavement. Without any hesitation, Izuku throws all thoughts of going to school on time out of his head and head over to her.

 

"Good morning, auntie!" He calls out to her, already yanking the front of her cart onto the pavement. He adds, to be polite, "Can I help?"

 

Without waiting for an answer, he moves around to the other side, pushing the cart and lifting it with all his five-year-old strength onto the pavement when the wheels hit the elevated path. He bows to the old lady and runs off in the direction of pre-school. "Have a good day, auntie!" Izuku calls back.

 

As Izuku dashes around the corner, the woman sighs, shaking her head fondly, "Hard to find kids like him, these days."

 

Izuku ignores the squish, squash, squish of his shoes. His breathing comes hard and uneven as he forgets to fit his small, weak body with oxygen. When he finally reaches the nursery, he puffs up his chest, and walks inside. He sneaks over to a corner, unnoticed by the other children playing in their small classroom. His Hero Analysis journal is taken out and placed onto his lap, scribbling away on theories and such.

 

He doesn't know how long has passed when he hears the pitter patter of rain on the glass doors.

 

"Hey, Deku!" 

 

Izuku doesn't flinch. He doesn't react negatively. He looks up and smiles. He isn't going to give that bully the satisfaction.

 

"Hi, Kacchan."

 

"Wipe that shitty grin off your face," Kacchan snarls. It seems he's updated his vocabulary a little bit more in the past week, taking it from Auntie Mitsuki.

 

"Ah, Kacchan," Izuku perks up, beaming so bright Kacchan blinks in his bright expression, "Did you catch the hero fight with Ingenium?"

 

Kacchan looks at Izuku for a moment before huffing and turning away. Izuku guesses it's his lack of reaction to Kacchan's very obviously hostile tone, as the boy is used to getting all the weaker kids to cower before him without even lifting a finger. It's a classic case of a child's quirk being so much better than the people around them that they grow an overinflated ego, so much so that when they're convinced they can be a hero, they fail with no understanding as to why. Usually, the shock of not always being the best sends them into a NEET mode, and if not handled correctly, will hurt their future as it would be too late to change the beliefs they grew up with. But damn if Izuku isn't going to save his best friend from the fate that lies in wake for the boy dreaming to get into UA.

 

"Oh, did you not?" Izuku questions, to which Kacchan snaps back bitingly:

 

"Huh? Of course I did! Who did you think I am, shitty Deku?"

 

"Ahh..." Izuku smiles serenely, "As expected of Kacchan. I think keeping up with all the latest news on villains and heroes is what would make a top hero later on!"

 

"Damn straight!"

 

"But Ingenium was so cool right? Apprehending the villain all alone."

 

"Tch." Kacchan turns and stalks away, leaving Izuku hanging.

 

He looks down at the page he was writing on, tapping his pencil to the dirty paper covered in smudges of graphite that stuck to the side of his hands. He had left off on an extensive analysis of Ingenium's abilities and what the limits of it were. By now, after almost three years since the hero's debut, he managed to find a list of limits to the hero's engines, how long he can use them for on an extended period of time, and how fast the engine can take before overheating per second. Though he's also got a good grip on Ingenium's moral compass, how far his justice goes whilst observing how he deals with hostage situations—

 

"The villain was weak, that's all." Kacchan's voice snaps him out of his trance of mumbling, causing him to look back up sheepishly. The boy plops down in front of Izuku and throws some sheets of paper on the ground.

 

"But if he used his head, his quirk could be extremely useful!" Izuku reasons.

 

"Yeah, well, it's not like he can teleport that far," Kacchan's voice doesn't lose its intensity even when he looks down at his hands and starts balling the paper up.

 

"True," Izuku taps his pencil on his chin, looking up as he leans back on the wall. "I estimate he can teleport about twelve meters, or more, at a time."

 

Kacchan snorts, resisting the urge to raise a brow, impressed by Izuku's thorough, almost obsessive observations. "Yeah, like I said—weak. I bet I could beat him up right now!" He covers the ball with another sheet of paper, twisting it around at the end.

 

"No, but what's impressive is that, if you look closely, Ingenium is moving before he even teleports! He gets to where the villain teleported the moment he appears, almost like he knew where the villain will teleport every time! So cool!"

 

"No way!" Kacchan shouts, looking up for a brief moment as he starts to draw All Might's face on the paper with a black marker. "I bet it's just his quirk."

 

Izuku laughs, rubbing the back of his neck. "Well, I notice that kind of stuff, cuz without a quirk, when I become a hero I would have to rely on my—"

 

In a split second, Kacchan's demeanour changes. He drops the paper and pen he was holding and lurches forward. Izuku winces, a gentle cry leaving his lips as smoking palms burn a brand into bare skin.

 

"You still haven't given up yet, useless fucking Deku?" Katsuki screams into face something not befitting for a six-year-old.

 

"I—I—I—" Izuku feels a tightness in his throat, feels the uncontrollable trembling threatening to tear open his skin and show the world just how terrified he is right now. "I can still—I can still be—I can still be a hero, K—Kacchan." 

 

"Speak up, shitty Deku!"

 

His smile comes out crooked and more of a grimace if anything. "Um, it would—uh, I think—I think that it would be—um, it would be symbolic to have a—for a—for the number one hero—"

 

"Hah?"

 

"To—to have a, uh, to have the first quirkless hero—as his, uh—as his sidekick. You know?"

 

"Tch," Kacchan drops Izuku from the tight position he was being held in, falling into a slouch that seems even more intimidating than him standing at his full height of three feet and nine inches. He turns and walks away, but not before grabbing his Teru Teru Bozu. Izuku looks down and sees the extra paper Kacchan brought for him scattered on the floor.

 


 

 

Izuku pauses before the messy, handwritten poster on the telephone pole. On it is a crayon drawing of what looks to be a brown-spotted drawing of a... dinosaur? coupled with what seems to be a red collar with the kanji for dog on it. Below are more letters, saying, last seen near Dagobah beach, if found please return to Hana, though he just barely makes it out. In the corner of the paper, in much neater handwriting, is a number and name. Izuku jots in down in the back of his hero notebook, which is filled with similar information.

 

After peering into a ramen place for a quick look at the clock at its back wall, Izuku decides he doesn't need to be home till late and his mom will probably assume that he's at the playground with the other kids. He runs as fast as his tiny waddling legs can carry him, off in the direction of Dagobah beach. He knows he should probably tell someone, but he has to finish this before dark. The sun is still high in the sky when he reaches the waterside.

 

It's a mess, the trash-filled beach. But Izuku's mind focuses on his thought that a dog could only have so many places to hide.

 

"Inu!" Izuku shouts as he pads down to the first pile of rubbish. He climbs onto a broken washing machine, grabbing onto a ledge of metal when his foot slips on the creaking door of it. He assumes the dog is literally called Dog as the collar stated. "Inu!"

 

He jumps onto the roof of a half buried car, stumbling forward but catching himself before he falls into a face-full of broken clothes-hangers. He kneels down on the rusted roof, wrapping his fingers over the window frame without the actual window of the car in it. Holding tight, he lowers his head so that he's peering into the car upside-down.

 

"Inu?"

 

"Nope."

 

Izuku yelps and loses balance, falling forward face-first into the sand. He manages to not break a neck doing that and groans. He pulls himself up, dusting the sand from his clothes and pulling his backpack onto his back again. Luckily nothing's fallen out when he flipped on his back. Izuku walks forward and crouches before the rusty car, studying its inside.

 

A boy is lying in the back seat, his legs crossed and his eyes staring at Izuku amusedly. He doesn't seem to need a cushion to rest his head on the metal door on the other side of the car, instead propping himself up with a pair of huge, deep red wings.

 

"Hi," Izuku says, unafraid of the stranger who only looks to be about six, maybe seven years older than him. "What are you doing in there, Onii-san?"

 

The boy hums. "I could say the same for you, squirt."

 

"I'm doing hero work!" Izuku replies, unhesitant as he pokes a thumb into his chest.

 

The boy relaxes back into his wings. Izuku can't help but feel this spot is a bit dangerous, considering he could get stuck in the windows as the door is trapped by the huge mass of sand half-burying it, even spilling some into the interior of the car itself. 

 

"Ah!" Izuku remembers why he's here. "Have you seen a dog with brown spots around here? Red collar with the word dog on it? Responds to Inu, probably."

 

Onii-san seems to contemplate something for a moment before he kicks his foot out, causing the passenger seat to bounce. There is a high-pitched noise and a blur of white and brown darts out from the front of the car onto Onii-san's lap. A dog with a red collar bounds around, seemingly excited for no reason.

 

"Inu!" The dog responds and tackles Izuku, pushing him onto his back as it licks his face furiously. Izuku looks at the collar and below the kanji inscribed on it is a number, the very same one on the poster. He smiles, but it falls in a moment.

 

"Why didn't you return him to the owner?" Izuku asks the Onii-san. He frowns at the older boy's nonchalant expression.

 

"Well, it's too much hassle," he says, shrugging and not meeting Izuku's eyes.

 

"A hero would help anyone no matter the hassle!" Izuku shouts.

 

Ah, whatever," Onii-san's face contorts into an irritated one, as if someone woke him from a nap. "I don't wanna be a hero, either way. Too much work."

 

Izuku crosses his arm and huffs, letting go of Inu, the small dog yapping rapidly as it runs around in circles. "You say that," Izuku pulls up his best impression of Auntie Mitsuki giving a lecture to a misbehaving Kacchan. "But if people like you actually help instead of lazing around, then there wouldn't be that much work for heroes to do!"

 

Onii-san puffs out a breath of laughter, bemused by where Izuku's train of thought arrives at. He replies, "Well, squirt, just one person isn't going to make a difference."

 

Of course not. Izuku deflates. If someone like All Might can't even make a difference alone, then what use would a useless, quirkless kid be to the world? All he's doing is existing, and occasionally helping people under the pretence of actually achieving his goal of becoming a hero, impossible as it may be. He's just a waste of space, really—one day when he faces his Maker, he will have to dig up the little acts of everyday heroism that will undoubtedly not count for much when he has to justify if the Maker made the right choice in allowing Izuku to exist at all—

 

"Okay—alright!" Onii-san tries to wave away the heavy pressure on his chest, a guilt with no source nor reason. "I'll help!"

 

Immediately the atmosphere around them brightens up and Onii-san blinks away the spots in his eyes from the sudden ray of light that originated from Izuku's brilliant smile.

 

"Great!" Izuku beams. "We'll return the dog."

 

Onii-san sighs, exasperated. He fishes a phone (Endeavour themed) out of his hoodie (also Endeavour themed) and beckons for the dog to come over. He types in the number on the collar and presses to call out. Izuku crouches before the dog, his hand hovering, dipping close enough for the dog to yap at him before he pulls his hand up higher. It teases Inu, the tiny dog going on its hind legs and nipping at his hand. Izuku keeps an ear on the voices next to him, one belonging to Onii-san and one a muffled voice distorted by the speaker, just as he scratches Inu's belly and the dog rolls over.

 

Once the receiver clicks, Izuku turns to look at the Onii-san.

 

"Ahh..." he beckons the younger boy over, "I'll write you the address—I've already got it memorised—I'll write you the address and—"

 

Izuku cocks his head to the side, studying the Onii-san. "No."

 

Onii-san pauses, his face frozen. "What?"

 

"You're taking me to their house." Izuku smiles a sickeningly sweet smile.

 

"No," Onii-san retorts, "I don't have to."

 

"But you will," Izuku ends it, picking up the dog. Despite its small stature, its weight almost crushes Izuku as he tries to balance it on his hip before he lets go, the dog slipping on the sand and getting right back up into the giddy bouncing. He looks over to where Onii-san stands up, taking note of the uncontrollable bounding of his leg, the same way he was doing when he was in the car.

 

Izuku plants his tiny fists on his hips and demands, "Lead the way, Onii-san."

 

Onii-san makes a pained face, his grimace lasting a second before he exhales softly. A smile is pulled up onto his lips and he picks the dog up, carrying it under his arms. Then, without warning, he grabs Izuku around the waist and hoists him up. Izuku cries out in surprise, feeling something soft supporting his arms and balancing him as Onii-san slung him over his shoulders.

 

"Please keep your arms and legs inside the ride—" Squealing, Izuku covers his mouth as Onii-san's wings lift and flap once, immediately pushing them into the sky. The ground pulls away from where Izuku stares at it over Onii-san's shoulders. 

 

When Izuku twists on the shoulder, he sees small pointy objects—feathers, he realises—pushing and holding him in the air, shifting to accommodate his new position. Wind whips past his face, stinging his cheeks in an exhilarating way. Izuku lets out a breathless laugh, eyes wide as he feels the ecstatic beating of his heart, the rapid thump thump thumpthumpthump—never-ending and pulsing with the blood in his ears. Like the steady rhythm of music, blood is pumped through his body, faster than fast, a feeling of euphoria grips his hearts. His fingers bunch into Onii-san's school uniform for a moment, as he's scared of falling off. Though his mind is sharp and knows that no matter what, the feathers will catch him, his body knows different and will always fear the tiny slip, the quick passing of buildings below them, close, yet too far.

 

But the fear is welcome. It's what pumps blood through his veins, what carries the chemical through his body—something Izuku would later come to know as C9H13NO3, and later, adrenaline.

 

Both Onii-san and Izuku let out a soft sound as they touch down on a lawn. Izuku shivers, not realising that his hands were not holding on to anything for a minute or two already in the fiver minute flight. The feathers compromise around him and let him slide down onto the grass with a quiet 'oomf'. His legs wobble, weaker than he expected, and the pair gives out from underneath him.

 

Unbeknownst to Izuku, the Onii-san watches him uneasily as the dog slips from his hold and ran up to the house, ducking into the pet door. The younger boy laughs breathlessly as he walks to ring the doorbell, and Onii-san wavers in his decision to join Izuku. When Izuku looked at him so readily and spoke to him with such conviction, chills ran down his spine at the absolute intensity of his stare, whether Izuku knew or not.

 

This isn't the first heart he's moved. Nor will this be the last.

 

After all, this is a story of a boy with a fire in his gaze that could warm the coldest of hearts—and sometimes even burn them. This is the story of a boy who could be an angel—yet could readily be the very Devil himself. This is the story of a fall from grace, and the battle to rise again.

 

The Onii-san sighs.

Chapter Text

Have you ever stopped to think about how their families feel?

I thought so hard about it

I went crazy.

 

The music of summer drones on around him.

 

Izuku balances precariously between the two thin branches. When he tested it earlier, he was sure he would fall through if he ever placed his full weight on the frail stick. So when he climbed the tree, he was careful to never shift his whole weight into one spot as he positioned himself on the complicated network of branches reaching out of the tree.

 

Now, he is leaned forward with his forearms pressed neatly against the prickly bark of the trunk, his foot perched as far away from each other and his hands as possible. This way, Izuku guesses through pure logic, it should spread his mass out a bit more—though he can never be sure since he never learnt it in school (since he's six) and merely speculated through observation. And, it seems that he guessed correctly.

 

"Here, kitty," Izuku speaks quietly to the two felines nestled comfortably in the little alcove in the tree, as if the mere vibrations of his voice can cause the branches to collapse. He can feel them beneath his shoes now, the springy quality of the sticks he felt would be wise to use as footholds.

 

His left arm unfolds from where it leant against the trunk and his hand reaches out as he shifts his weight carefully as he can, away from the cats so he wouldn't fall forward into the tree and lose the delicate balance he has on the branches. The bigger one stretches forward, eyes narrowing softly as its nose grazes Izuku's fingers. A second passes and Izuku takes a slow breath as steady as he can, holding it trapped in his lungs so nothing can shake him from the precarious position he holds. Finally, after a suspended moment, the cat starts to climb into Izuku's small hands and he shifts against the trunk to accommodate for the extra weight. 

 

He finally lets loose the breath he was holding, relief flooding him as the cat finds a balanced stance on his shoulders. Right, now he just has to get it to safety below and come back—

 

The cat pushes off his shoulder in a leap and lands gracefully on the grass below.

 

 There is a small second where time seems to slow to a stop as Izuku looks down to see the long drop below him. The height might have been exaggerated from this perspective, since Izuku made sure beforehand that he wouldn't have such a hard fall if he slipped. In that moment, Izuku does nothing as he stares at the grass that seems to be further than the bottom of a cliff. He teeters, gravity tugging him backwards and when his weight lifts off the forearm he had folded against the trunk and was using to lean on, he snaps back into real time and scrambles to regain balance. His arm pulls away to wrap around the trunk as fast as he can, a sharp instance of pain barely registers from the friction of gnarled bark against skin. He presses up againts the tree just as the branches give way beneath him and he pushes off it, shoes desperately trying to grab onto the trunk.

 

Izuku may or may not be bleeding, but his head is so clear and void of pain right now as he hangs on the verge of a fall. If he doesn't see the friction burn, he doesn't have to acknowledge it.

 

He raises his head slowly once his groping hands find the little bits of the tree that has jutted out into a handhold during its growth. He smears with his feet, moving around to finally rest gently on two more branches, just as frail and breakable as the first. If he smeared any longer, he wouldn't have been able to hold his weight up with his spindly arms and small body. It takes a while longer than the first time since he is now breathing quickly, his heartbeat audible in his ears, but he manages to find the perfect position to reach out for the second, smaller cat.

 

He pauses just as the cat paws at Izuku's tiny fingers. "Wait," he says to the cat despite that humans, in fact, cannot converse with animals. Of course unless its a mutation, one with a quirk. Nevertheless, he talks to it, "Do you need help?"

 

The cat, surprisingly, does not respond.

 

"Look," he pulls up a business-like tone he hears Dad use to converse on the phone that doesn't suit his six-year-old voice at all as he pushes himself away from the trunk. "I'm gonna carry you, okay? So don't move or we're both gonna fall."

 

The cat blinks and Izuku takes that as a sign that it understands. He smiles and slides his hand under the cat's stomach.

 

...only for it to pounce on him.

 

He reels back, a breath stuck in his throat as he faces the blue of the sky seen through the canopy of leaves above. His arms wrap around the cat and the ticking of his heartbeat slows to a stop. Time winds down to a standstill. 

 

It's quite surreal, this moment spent suspended in time. Then again, time is a construct and his mind is what determines the pace of his life. Beams of light passes through between the leaves, creating tiny pools of light reflecting on Izuku's face. It moves and shifts as a gust of wind passes by, the same speed as always as if Izuku's mind can never stop nature in its course—after all, he is only human and even in a space of his own making, he cannot completely control the sentient flow of nature. The pools of light scatter across Izuku's skin, shifting and blinking as the leaves are shaken by the breeze, just as he feels the strands of his hair tickle against his ear as the wind sweeps through it. The wind blows over and the air stills, settling into the unnatural silence of this scenery. Even the cicadas are gone.

 

There is no sound. Just him and his mind.

 

"So what will you do?" He asks himself.

 

He's seen the movies, seen the stunt doubles fall from heights larger than this one. They always seem to fall on their feet with their knees bent, then they crumble into a roll to break their fall. Maybe it's to shift all that momentum forward (of course, Izuku is a six-year-old with an advanced vocabulary, but that word is still foreign to him. He knows the concept of it though, through experience and observation). When you move fast, he notices, you can never really stop. It's the same as whoever Kacchan pushes him—if its against something that will stop him, it hurts considerably worse than if Kacchan just pushes him into empty space. He thinks rolling is to dissipate whatever force is bringing him down to the ground, to push it forward so it will naturally go away instead of being stopped forcefully on a solid. After all, your bones can only take so much pressure. Later on, Izuku would learn about kinetic energy, shock absorption, and energy transfer. But now, he would have to settle for less eloquent explanations.

 

Wait, no, focus.

 

With the way he is now, no reflexes would be able to get him upright enough to pull off a roll to break his fall. Maybe if he lands on his side—no, no way. He's seen Tsubasa fall after he got his quirk, landing painfully on his right arm. He still clearly remembers it—the audio memory echoes through the forest, a loud and crisp SNAP. He remembers crying and a purple bruise jutting out below the boy's neck, what he would soon learn to be the telltale sign of a broken collarbone. He involuntarily shivers and files the image away, a mental note never to fall on his shoulder where the impact would go further than he'd think.

 

In the direction he's falling, he should be able to just fall on his back. If he just relaxes, if he doesn't allow his body to be compact, he should be able to lessen the pressure his bones would take when he hits the ground Or, if he falls on his feet and launch himself backwards, that should disperse the force as well.

 

Tick.

 

Izuku takes a deep breath as gravity wraps itself around him, an anchor to make him sink and stay on the forest floor.

 

Tick.

 

Tick.

 

The sudden roar of blood in his ears clears his head immediately of all thoughts.

 

Tick

 

Tick. Tick.

 

Tick.  Tick. Tick.

 

The telltale beating of his heart resumes at its original pace, the deafening warning of wind rushes past his ears and whips his hair around as Izuku falls from his mind palace and from the tree, the sense and concept of time returning, setting Izuku's world into motion once again.

 

There is a thud, followed by nothing. The summer song of cicadas drones on, a constant reminder of the bright sun breaking through the canopy and painting the forest floor in splotches of light, of the unbearable heat the tourists leave behind every year once the snow seeps into the ground, never to be seen again. Lying in this bed of leaves, if Izuku was to scream along with the insects, no one would hear him this far past the creek that he usually plays at with Kacchan. If his body broke upon impact, no one would find him until his mom comes looking for him or if Kacchan ventures further into the forest.

 

He opens his arms and the cat climbs out, stretching, unbothered. Its body shivers as it brushes past Izuku, purring lazily. When Izuku pushes off the ground with his sore and battered body, he reaches for the cat and the two immediately take off through the thicket of trees, darting in the direction of town. He sighs and stumbles against the tree trunk for a moment before pulling himself upright and grinning. Another job well-done!

 

Izuku picks up the yellow backpack he has leaning against the plants and carries on his way.

 

After a few minutes of walking he reaches the streets, and after another few minutes of crying because of the scratches on his arm from the tree bark, he hears a noise. Now, noises aren't an uncommon occurrence, contrary to popular belief, but this noise does sound quite suspicious—especially when it's echoing from an alleyway closed off by a chain fence. He stands on the sidewalk for a beat or two as he contemplates his poor decisions. It doesn't take long to convince himself to go check out the source of the sound and hopefully help out.

 

Izuku launches himself at the chain fence, grappling for purchase before he just falls back on his bottom, the chain-link fence rattling noisily. He huffs, frustrated before shrugging his backpack off and throwing as best he could over the fence. It doesn’t go over the fence, a testament to Izuku’s measly six-year-old arm strength, but its strap does catch onto a bit of metal jutting out—probably to ensure the fence doesn’t just bend over, Izuku guesses. He climbs after it, chubby fingers barely holding on to the thin holds, and he manages to reach the top and push his backpack over. He topples to the ground after it, realising that the fence isn’t that tall after all.

 

His arms still hurt so much that tears haven’t yet dried, but he isn’t about to leave someone in troubled—heroes don’t do that. After all, the prospect of danger still hasn’t quite registered yet this far in life.

 

Well, it kind of did, but his Dad had brought him down these streets before a year or two ago.

 

“Over there is where the rich live,” Hisashi said, the two of them hand in hand, standing at a corner just one block away from the chain-link fence. 

 

“The houses look so old!” Izuku had remarked, staring at the traditional Japanese buildings.

 

Hisashi smiled fondly down at his son. “A lot of heroes with legacies live around there.”

 

”So does that mean that no villains come around here?” Izuku looked up at his father, eyes twinkling with awe.

 

”It’s dangerous for villains around here, yes.” Hisashi had stopped smiling when he said that, something akin to... warning in his tone. Izuku ignored that and looked at the two kids with white hair and one with red running around the front, passing a Temari between them.

 

Izuku peers into the darkness and calls, “Are you okay?”

 

 §

 

Todoroki Touya wants to die. Has wanted to cease existence for as long as he can remember and that was when his quirk first manifested.

 

His flames burn the brightest of blue, a white hot that seared into his skin when he set the floor on fire. His legs burned, scarred over an ugly purple, but Touya couldn’t recall the phantom memory of the pain until not long ago.

 

His body couldn’t handle the flames much, his father had said when Touya sat leaning against the dojo’s wall, staring at his bandaged legs, numbed to any kind of touch one can think of. His father had not relented, opting to train him day in day out, yelling at him to get stronger, that such a weak constitution would not survive long in the hero world—that is, until he turned eleven and Shouto froze the floor then set the ceiling on fire.

 

His father had thrown him away right then and there. In his dead, rotting heart, there was still a burning desire for his father to look at him like he was worth something; for Shouto to be a complete failure and for Endeavor to focus all his training on Touya. But there was also a disgusting part of him, a loathsome part  Touya hated so much that felt relieved whenever he looked at his little brother. A part that listened to Shouto crying in their mother’s arm in the other room and thought, Thank God that isn’t me.

 

Todoroki Touya was—is a horrible person.

 

He started to actively wish for death the year after Shouto’s quirk manifested. The year Touya turned twelve. The year Todoroki Rei was hospitalised.

 

Their mother couldn’t bear to look at Shouto’s left side so much that she poured boiling hot water over his head. She hated the face that reminded her so much of him: the red hair, the piercing turquoise eyes. Touya aches when he thought of how much she must have suffered whenever she so much as glanced at the child that most resembled him in the unruly red hair, piercing turquoise eyes, her firstborn Touya himself? All save for his thin frame, muscle and fat eaten up by cremation-level fire, Touya was a tiny carbon copy of Endeavor.

 

He started looking at his hands and wondering if his own fire would be enough to burn away his sins.

 

When he turned thirteen, Todoroki Touya killed himself. He started with his arms and that moment—the moment fire as hot as Touya’s cold blue eyes sparked into existence after having not used it in so long—that was the moment he remembered why he can no longer feel his legs. His screams filled the house and his world was fire, it was pain. And yet that had nothing on the smoke filling his lungs, obstructing his breathing, burning his throat and nostrils in the fight for oxygen (one he would lose as his flames burned hotter than anything), stinging his eyes so much that he believed for a moment he had burned all of his face away.

 

Rage fuelled the inferno even more when the first person to find him, the first person to rush towards his pained screams was his father. Endeavor had looked at him with panic and Touya told himself it was because a child that died due to a flame quirk would ruin the number two hero’s reputation a tiny bit. He refused to believe that the man rushed to his aid, wielding the fire extinguisher made specifically for Touya’s destructive ethanol-fuelled quirk.

 

His father had taken him to an emergency clinic nearby—the ones set up in places where hospitals would be too far away to be considered an option. They had popped up a few decades ago to combat an increasing number of villains and high crime rates before All Might’s debut. An ambulance had arrived from that place in no time, just in time for Touya to slip into unconsciousness after catching a glimpse of his siblings curled tight around each other, the two younger ones crying into Fuyumi’s shirt.

 

When he had awoken, bandages wrapped around him from his jaw down to his collar and arms, he had set the world alight once more. The clinic burned down and the room turned to ash, cremated as the only funeral Todoroki Touya would ever need. Endeavor was not there. No, never for his failure of a son.

 

So when this bright-eyed gremlin reaches out a hand and asks him if he is okay, Touya is just about ready to combust once again. No, he is not okay, and no, he doesn’t want help from this child looking at him with such concern. But he must’ve passed out mentally at some point because when he comes to, he’s stumbling along on heavily leaning on the green-haired boy.

 

”Onii-san, help a bit!”

 

”Midoriya, what the fuck?”

 

”Potty-mouth, potty-mouth!”

 

”I—just—gah, bring him over here.”

 

Someone attempts to sling Touya’s arms over their shoulder, but the moment they touched his bandaged skin, he screams in pain.

 

”Fuck! Shit! Call an ambulance—“

 

”No!” Touya manages through a choked sob. “Please don’t—“ Pain engulfs his world once more.

 

The person holding him up swore a few more times before wrapping their arms around his middle, the un-bandaged part of his torso. He feels himself lowered onto a leather of some sort and the blinding sunlight disappearing as a shadow is cast over his head and the throbbing behind his eyes subside.

 

”We have to call an ambulance,” the older sounding voice says, this time much calmer. “Get him to a hospital.”

 

Touya gathers air in his lungs, ready to speak once more as he opens his eyes. He’s lying in the backseat of a car, though the car seems to be sunken as he can see a boy around his age crouched on the ground outside, a sea of red behind him that Touya cannot place. Sitting inside the old, beaten down car is the green-haired boy that helped him before, his face turned away from Touya. Just as Touya’s about to open his mouth, the boy beats him to it.

 

”We can’t,” the boy says, so matter-of-factly like it was the most obvious thing in the world. “He could be in trouble.”

 

The older boy raises a brow, resting his chin in his palm as he leans his elbows on his crouched legs. “That’s probably why we should get him to the authorities.” Touya notices the boy doesn’t carry the same panicked air his voice exuded earlier, but rather, he seems carefree and idle, as if there wasn’t a medium-rare Touya sitting in front on him. Despite what his words might suggest, he seems too bothered to actually call for an ambulance.

 

The green-haired boy, on the other hand, turns to look at Touya and smiles. What a strange pair. “He’s running,” the boy says with such confidence that Touya would not be surprised if he actually knows Touya’s entire life story, “we can’t just hand him over to whatever he’s running from. That’s not what heroes do. Besides,” the boy lowers his voice so it would just be Touya hearing him, “we both know this has something to do with the burning building, right?”

 

The older boy outside says something and moves away, taking with him the shifting sea of red to show a blurry backdrop of metal. But Touya isn’t paying attention; he’s staring straight at this green-haired boy.

 

How dare he, Touya thinks. How dare this gremlin look at him with such understanding—how dare he? There is no way this boy with barely a decade under his belt can look at Touya like that and be able to feel exactly what’s going on his head right, be able to understand the turmoil that, as far as Touya knows, has never happened to anyone before. How dare he? This boy can’t possibly understand, yet he’s looking at Touya with such tender eyes, so much so that Touya himself can not understand either how someone can feel so much empathy at once and not just die.

 

”My name is Midoriya Izuku,” the boy says brightly, “what’s your—“ he cuts off. A beat passes before he continues, “Do you want to tell me your name?”

 

”No...” Touya manages through a croak before delving into a coughing fit.

 

”Ah!” Midoriya rummages through the backpack he swings from over his shoulder into his lap. He produces a plastic bottle of water, half empty, and uncaps it, pushing it onto Touya’s lips right where the bandages around his jaws end. Pain overcomes him, seizes him for a moment and Midoriya grabs onto his hands, holding the only bits of bare skin where no fire burned him.

 

”Sorry, onii-san, but you’ve gotta drink a bit.”

 

Touya winces and he remembers Fuyumi and her tired eyes. “Don’t call me that.”

 

A beat. “Nii-san?”

 

Shouto, who calls him so affectionately and Natsuo, who tacks on a careless nii to Touya-nii as well, even though he doesn’t need to differentiate between two older brothers like Shouto does. Did. “Just stick with you. No need to be so formal.”

 

”I can’t do that, Aniki!”

 

Aniki. That’s... fine.

 

Midoriya smiles at Touya’s lack of resistance and claps his hands together. He talks about nothing and everything and Touya appreciates the distraction from his world of pain, the distant burn and friction. Soon though, Touya slips into a realm beyond sleep and Midoriya quiets, hand still holding his. What a strange kid.

 

 §

 

Shouto cries softly on the floor next to his bed. The screams had started during training, a harsher session from All Might returning to Japan for a bit—but they weren’t his own screams. His father’s focus had sharpened to zone into the source of the cry, unlike anytime there were distractions in Shouto’s training. Shouto didn’t follow his father’s thundering footsteps but curled into himself, hands desperately trying to block out the screams. 

 

Fuyumi had come in to grab his hand and drag him outside, Natsuo holding on to her other side. There was smoke coming from further in the house, rising into the sky from somewhere that he couldn’t quite place. The house was on fire, he surmised. It should’ve been expected considering the amount of fire quirks in their household, but they should’ve been able to control it relatively well. They’ve all evacuated at least and Endeavor is off being the number two hero...

 

“Where’s Touya-nii?” Shouto voiced the sudden realisation. The other two didn’t meet his eye.

 

Out of all their siblings, Touya was the one Shouto knew best. Endeavor barely let him talk to Fuyumi or Natsuo for longer than the occasional times they were alone without him. They didn’t eat together. They didn’t play together. But Touya—Touya he knew.

 

Kind big brother Touya snuck him sweets. Tiny sour drops or hard candy that can be consumed in seconds, ones he won’t get caught eating. Sometimes, Touya would sneak into his room at night and sooth his nightmares, would stroke his head the same way his mother would and speak softly to him.

 

“You don’t have to be a hero, you know?” Shouto had always liked the quality of his brother’s voice, a husky sound that had broke earlier that year.

 

Shouto would sob into his shirt and never be able to say anything intelligible. But his brother would understand.

 

”Your life shouldn’t be sad for you, Todoroki Shouto.” And he would not say anything more.

 

So when an ambulance (not a traditional kind he realises, but the ones parked just barely visible inside the clinic near them) arrived and a smoking form was carted away, hooked up to emergency tubes, he cried. Fuyumi pulled his head to her chest, attempting to block his view of the thin frame that didn’t fit.

 

Endeavor went with them. Came back an hour later to check on the rest of his children, his shirt soaked through with sweat that wasn’t there during the training session. He left a bit later when he got a call, wearing a distressed expression. Hours later he returned to them with grim news.

 

So tonight, Shouto cries.

 

The door creaks open and Shouto freezes up, trying to wipe the tears away, to hide them.

 

”It’s just me,” Fuyumi says softly.

 

Shouto looks up. It’s strange to see her in his room.

 

She moves to sit in front of him on the floor and pushes an object to sit between them. Shouto stares and when there’s no explanation, he asks, “What’s that?”

 

”Onii—Touya-nii’s phone,” she says. She pulls out her own and calls Touya’s number.

 

When they wait and let the line go to voicemail, they hear it:

 

“Hey, this is Todoroki Touya, you’ve probably called the wrong number because I wouldn’t have given you mine. Unless you’re Yumi or Natsu or Shouto, then shoot.”

 

That voice, low and bored, saying his name. His brother’s voice brought tears to his eyes once more. Because he missed it already. Because he realises he’ll never be able to hear his brother soothing him, patting his head down—not anymore.

 

”Keep it, and when you get your own phone when you’re older, call it everyday. Just so he’s with us again.”

 

”What’s going on here?” The dark silhouette of Endeavor’s form looms over them, plunging the two into his shadow as he stands blocking the only light from the hallway in the doorframe.

 

Fuyumi freezes up and her breath shakes. She stands up just as Shouto tries to hide the phone under his shirt.

 

”I’m sorry... dad,” she says, not meeting his eyes. Her fists shake where they’re clenched around wrinkled skirt. “I’m just comforting Shouto. It’s a stressful day.” She squeezes past him to make her way back to her room, and to the surprise of both children, their father does not stop her.

 

A moment of silence passes before Endeavor steps into the room and Shouto holds the phone so tight it might’ve broken.

 

”What did Fuyumi give you?” So commanding, his tone. Shouto wonders if he does it on purpose or not.

 

”It’s—It...” Shouto mumbles.

 

”Speak up, boy,” Endeavor does not raise his voice.

 

”It’s Touya-nii’s phone. She said if I c-call it, I can hear his voice again.”

 

Shouto, staring down at the ground, sees Endeavor tense up at the corner of his eye. He prepares to be hit, or for the phone to be wrenched away.

 

”Don’t just lie down and wait for me to take it.”

 

Shouto looks up in surprise. Endeavor’s looking down, no flaming beard, no trace of fire. Only cold, hard eyes.

 

”If you want to keep the phone, you be prepared to defend it. This stance isn’t going to stop anyone.”

 

Shouto’s mouth is catching flies at this point.

 

Endeavor scoffs. “What kind of world would it be when the number one hero is this weak he can’t even protect a phone.”

 

And his father walks away. In the future, Todoroki Shouto will find out that his father, Todoroki Enji, continues to pay the phone bill for the old mobile, even ten years from now.